For North Korea, gold was elusiveNorth Korean Kim Sung-guk’s loss to Alexei Tichtchenko of Russia, 39-17, in the men’s featherweight 57 kg final on Sunday delivered the final painful blow to that country’s Olympic ambitions of taking home four gold medals.
The North failed yet again to earn a single gold, as was the case in the Sydney Games, where it won one silver and three bronze medals. At the Athens Games, North Korea ranked 58th overall with four silvers and one bronze.
The North dispatched 69 participants, including 36 athletes, to the Athens Olympics. Gold-medal hopefuls such as Kye Sun-hui in judo and Ri Song-hui in women’s weightlifting fell slightly short of their goals. Instead, they went home adorned with silver instead of the much-anticipated gold medals.
The women’s table-tennis star Kim Hyang-mi also won silver. And the scorching Athens heat did in Ham Bong-sil, who quit the women’s marathon at the 20-kilometer point. Kim Jong-su, the gold medalist at the 2002 Busan Asian Games in the men’s shooting’s 10-meter air pistol contest, earned a bronze in Athens.
North Korea won its first gold medal in the 1972 Munich Games, when it first joined the Olympics. In Munich, it won a gold in shooting to finish 22nd overall with one gold, one silver and three bronzes.
Since then, North Korea won at least one gold in the 1976, 1992 and 1996 Games. (It boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics). In the 1992 Barcelona Games, North Korea achieved its best Olympic record: It came in 16th place, with four gold and five bronze medals.
by Kang Hye-ran
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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