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North Korean Olympian lifts 3 times his weight

4:30 AM, Jul 30, 2012   |    comments
North Korea's Om Yun Chol competes during the men's 56-kg, group B, weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 29, 2012, in London. (AP Photo)
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(AP) LONDON - North Korea's Om Yun Chol joined an exclusive group of weightlifters Sunday who have lifted three times their body weight in the clean and jerk - and in the process won the gold in the first upset of the weightlifting competition at the London Olympics.

According to Om, it was all thanks to the "Great Leader."

The 20-year-old Om, who stands just 1.52 meters tall (a shade under 5 feet), also set an Olympic record when he cleared 168 kilograms (about 370 pounds) in the clean and jerk in the men's 56-kilogram (about 123 pounds) 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 which took place later in the day.

Double world champion and pre-competition favorite Wu Jiangbiao of China had to settle for the silver medal while European Champion Valentin Hristov of Azerbaijan got the bronze.

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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.

It worked.

As the "A'' group entered the platform at the ExCeL center later Sunday, Wu lifted 133 kilograms in the snatch to gain an 8-kilogram lead over Om. But his 156-kilogram clean and jerk wasn't enough to beat the North Korean's total.

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

"I am very happy and give thanks to our Great Leader for giving me the strength to lift this weight," Om said. "I believe Kim Jong Il gave me the record and all my achievements. It is all because of him."

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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