No ordinary Choe: North Korean makes epic lift to win gold

Daniel HICKS
North Korea's Choe Jon Wi competes in the men's 77kg weightlifting event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 23, 2018

Choe Jon Wi pulled out the greatest lift of his life to edge a titanic battle of the Koreas and secure the fourth weightlifting gold for the North in an epic 77kg men's final Thursday.

Later Taiwan's world champion Kuo Hsing-chun dismantled the Thai Olympic champion Srisurat Sukanya to win her country's first gold in the women's 58kg.

South Korea's Kim Woo-jae had looked as if he had turned the tables on Choe, his rival from across the heavily armed Korean border, when he succeeded with 187kg to give him a massive 347kg total.

Choe was floundering on 340kg, but the 25-year-old student smashed his lifetime best, set in coming eighth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, by 3kg as he somehow hauled 193kg above his head for victory.

"It was the biggest weight I have ever lifted, I never even did that in training," a delighted Choe told AFP.

It sparked frenzied celebrations as he set off punching the air wildly before leaping from the stage into the arms of his coach, as Woo watched in stunned silence from the warm-up area.

In the women's 58kg, Taiwanese national icon Kuo only needed her opening lift of 125kg in the clean and jerk to blow away Srisurat and clinch gold.

She returned but failed by a whisker with a 143kg attempt that would have extended her own clean and jerk world record.

Kuo became a national hero in Taiwan after she set the world record at 142kg on home soil at the 2017 Universiade in Taipei, after winning a bronze behind Srisurat at the 2016 Olympics.

Kuo, who added Asian Games gold to her 2017 world title, won with a total of 235kg, 11kg ahead of Srisurat, and now only needs the Olympic title to complete a grand slam of major wins.

"This is the first step on the path to gold in Tokyo 2020," a still beaming Kuo told AFP after receiving her medal. "It's a great beginning."

- 'I wanted the record' -

Kuo will defend her world title in November and is carrying the mantle for Taiwanese weightlifting after double Olympic champion and world record holder Hsu Shu-ching retired two months ago.

"I wanted to challenge for the record with that final lift," she added. "so I asked my coach and he said: 'Go for it'."

Mikiko Andoh snatched bronze, the first weightlifitng medal for a Japanese woman since 1994, with her final lift of 127kg.

And earlier Thailand's Chinnawong Chatuphum became the only Thai man to win two Asian Games medals after repeating his bronze performance of 2014.

Woo's silver was South Korea's first medal in weightlifting of the 2018 Asiad and their 75th in the history of the Asian Games. Only China (76) and Iran (79) have won more.

It was also only the second North-South one-two in Asian Games weightlifting history after Yang Eui Yong beat Lee Myung-Soo in the men's 56kg event in 1978.

North Korea have already matched their 2014 Asian Games record haul of four weightlifting golds following victories for O Kang Chol (men's 69kg), Ri Song Gum (women's 48kg) and Om Yun Chol (men's 56kg) earlier in the week.

They look certain to increase that tally further with powerhouses China and Kazakhstan banned eight of the 15 gold medals still up for grabs.