North Korean lifts three times his body weight at Olympics

With the feat, North Korea's Om Yun Chol on Sunday joined an elite group of weightlifters. He gave thanks to North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il.

Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
North Korea's Yun Chol Om competes on the 56Kg Group B weightlifting competition at the London Games July 29.

North Korea's Om Yun Chol on Sunday joined an exclusive group of weightlifters who have lifted three times their body weight in the clean and jerk.

Mr. Om, who stands just 1.52 meters tall, also set an Olympic record when he cleared 168 kilograms in the clean and jerk in the men's 56-kilogram category — and immediately gave all the credit to late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

"How can any man possibly lift 168kg? I believe the great Kim Jong-il looked over me," Om was quoted as saying by the Olympic News Service.

Om's achievement was even more impressive considering he was competing in the "B'' group with lower-ranked lifters. Medal contenders generally compete in the "A'' group scheduled for later Sunday.

Om's record lift was also surprising because he was ranked just 11th in the world in 2011 and the best clean and jerk he registered last year was 156 kilograms at junior worlds.

But the crowd was so supportive of all the lifters that even a North Korean was backed as though he were a Brit.

Om cleared 160 and 165 kilograms on his first two attempts and got the crowd even more riled up when it was announced he would go for the Olympic mark. Om then confidently squatted to grab the bar and, after securing it at his shoulders on the clean, executed a powerful and steady jerk above his head.

"I wanted to lift a big weight and make the other athletes nervous," Om said.

He then had to wait to see if any lifters in the "A'' could match his 293-kilogram total later Sunday.

Only a handful of lifters have cleared three times their body weight before, including Halil Mutlu and Naim Suleymanoglu of Turkey.

"I believe Kim Jong-il gave me the record and all my achievements. It is all because of him," Om said.

North Korean athletes routinely heap praise on Kim and the North Korean people whenever they win gold medals.

When weightlifter Pak Hyon Suk won the women's 63-kilogram division in Beijing four years ago, she said she was "overjoyed" by the fact that she had brought joy to Kim.

Meanwhile, O Jong Ae, who got the bronze in the women's 58-kilogram class in Beijing, apologized for not doing better.

"I wanted to bring joy to the North Korean people. However, I failed to do so, so I am very sad and sorry," she said in 2008.

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