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PRK and Liu Huanhua in world-record form at Asian Games

After eight days of intense competition at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, the team honours went to DPRK and the top individual was Liu Huanhua from China.

Seven world champions were beaten, but that was hardly surprising given they had less than four weeks between winning in Riyadh last month and lifting again in Hangzhou.

Liu Huanhua (CHN)

Tian Tao, who failed in Riyadh but won at 96kg at the Asian Games, said, “Two competitions in one month is very difficult. We would never usually do that.”

While many athletes had four weeks preparation time, PRK’s team had nearly four years. Because of Covid restrictions, which led to PRK withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympic Games, they had not competed since December 2019, or even longer ago in some cases.

PRK’s 64kg winner Rim Un Sim unwraps a gift at press conference along side team manager Song Nam Jang

PRK could not have made a more spectacular return. On the first day in Hangzhou Ri Song Gum and Kang Hyong Gong both set world records and won gold, at 49kg and 55kg respectively, and by the end of the competition PRK had six gold medals, one more than China.

The 59kg winner Kim Il Gyong also claimed a world record for PRK with a snatch of 111kg, taking the record from Olympic champion Kuo Hsing-Chun, who finished third.

“Every gold medal is payback for our hardship over four years,” said Song Nam Jang, the PRK team manager. “We are world leaders now. We wanted to show our strength and we did it.”

DPRK has confirmed to the IWF that it will allow independent foreign anti-doping missions into the country. If it all goes smoothly, it will secure PRK’s long-term future in the sport.

Kim Chun Hui, PRK’s national coach

Liu Huanhua’s individual performance in winning at 109kg was all the more remarkable because he weighed in at 100.8kg and could have lifted at 102kg if that category had been on the Asian Games programme. Like the Olympic 89kg category, it did not feature in a competition overseen by the Olympic Council of Asia rather than the IWF.

Liu’s 418kg total would have been a 102kg world record. It scored 1,049 Robi points on the IWF calculator. He made a final clean and jerk of 233kg, which he said was better than any lift in training, to relegate world and Olympic champion Akbar Djuraev, from Uzbekistan, into second place.

Rahmat Erwin from Indonesia made a 201kg clean and jerk at 73kg to set yet another world record, which he celebrated with his coach and father Erwin Abdullah.

Park Hyejeong (KOR)

The super-heavyweight winners were Park Hyejeong from Korea, who sent a “get well soon” message to the injured Chinese Olympic champion Li Wenwen, and Gor Minasyan from Bahrain.

Minasyan totalled more than 450kg for the fifth time in a year. He said he had never competed five times in 12 months before and he plans to take a break until February.

The next big target for many of the athletes in Hangzhou is two months away, the IWF Grand Prix II in Qatar

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games