8/20/2018 2:28:48 PM

Agony and ecstasy as lifter Ri takes North Korea's first Asiad gold

Agony and ecstasy as lifter Ri takes North Korea

Jakarta, Indonesia: North Korea bagged their first gold of the Asian Games on Monday when weightlifter Ri Song Gum pipped local favourite Sri Wahyuni Agustiani to win the women's 48kg class.

Ri, who is just 4ft 7in (140cm) tall, hoisted a massive 112kg in her first clean and jerk attempt to power past Agustiani who had taken a shock one kilogramme lead after the first snatch discipline.

Olympic silver medallist Agustiani, aged 24 and known affectionately as Yuni, hoisted 107kg on her first attempt at the clean and jerk.

She tried and agonisingly failed twice to lift the 112kg she needed for victory despite the huge cries of "Indonesia, Indonesia" ringing around the Jakarta International Expo venue.

Ri reemerged twice to attempt an Asian Games record and personal best of 117kg but departed in agony as her left knee buckled on both attempts and she had to be helped from the platform on one leg.

A few moments later draped in the North Korean flag, the 20-year-old Ri's pain turned to ecstasy as she received the gold medal and belted out the anthem of the secretive nation with tears streaming down her cheeks and dribbling from her chin.

Ri's victory was watched by North Korea sports minister Kim Il Guk who told Korean media: "She did a great job."

"I'm very happy that I won the first gold," said Ri after emerging from doping control with her left knee encased in an ice pack.

The rising star, who came fourth as a teenager at the 2015 world championships, was cheered to the rafters by a large phalanx of supporters clad in unified Korea T-shirts. "I felt good because many people supported me," Ri said.

It left Yuni with yet another silver medal to add to those she won four years ago at the 17th Asiad in Incheon and again at the Rio Olympics two years ago and, crestfallen, she too was left in floods of tears.

"I have lifted 116kg in training but today never felt like I could repeat it, no," a still visibly upset Yuni told AFP after the medals ceremony, feeling that she had let her country down as Games hosts.

Earlier in the opening snatch category Yuni had lifted 88kg and when Ri failed at 90kg it left the Indonesian with a slender lead as the packed arena erupted in support of their home heroine, believing an elusive gold might at last be hers.

But the North Koreans, predicted to be dominant in weightlifting at these Asian games in the absence of China and Kazakhstan who are banned for doping, were not to be denied. Ri's 199kg total proved enough with Yuni 4kg in arrears. 

Thailand's feisty Thunya Sukcharoen took bronze with a 189kg total.

Sri Lanka's B.D.H Gomas was another reduced to tears after she failed three times at her opening weight of 67kg and sunk to her knees sobbing as her Asian Games ended almost as quickly as they started.

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