North Korean Olympic lifter Om Yun-Chol apologises to leaders

AFP

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - When popular North Korean weightlifter Om Yun-Chol won Olympic gold in 2012 he thanked the reclusive country's late supreme leader and successor. On Sunday, after managing only silver in Rio, he apologised.

The 4 foot 11 inch (1.5 metre) Om wowed London crowds four years ago with his smiley, boyish demeanour and record-breaking exploits as he grabbed first place in the men's 56-kg competition.

"The reason for my improvement and how I won the gold medal is down to the warm love of the Great Leader Kim Jong-Il and the Great Comrade Kim Jong-Un," he said back then.

But it was an altogether different story in Brazil after Om was stunned by China's Long Qingquan, who sensationally broke a 16-year-old world record to snatch gold.

"He will be my inspiration forever and I'm sorry that I wasn't able to repay with a gold medal," a gloomy Om said, referring to Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.

"I hope to come back at the next opportunity and compete again and repay my gratitude with gold," he added.

Om has dominated the men's lightest category since triumphing in London, when he become only the fifth man to lift three times his bodyweight, claiming three consecutive world championships.

The 24-year-old holds the world records for both the snatch and the clean and jerk in the 56-kg category, set in November last year at the world championships in Houston.

His Olympic jerking record of 168kg, set in London, was beaten by Long who lifted 170kg on Sunday.

The Chinese athlete won with a combined total of 307kg while Om, who lifted 134kg in the snatch and 169 in the clean and jerk, could only manage 303kg.

"I don't think I can be a hero to my people with a silver medal," he told reporters mournfully, before picking himself up and vowing to be back.

"This includes all championships and competitions that take place from next year all the way to 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games," Om said.

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