North Korea has become a dominant force in weightlifting at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia, so far taking five gold medals out of nine events.
With China out of contention due to a doping ban, North Korea has taken its neighbor's spot at the Asian Games. The communist state is expected to grab two or three medals in the remaining six weight classes.
North Koreans usually cite the power of their ideology, or great care of the supreme leader as the factors behind their success, but those are not the only reasons. According to North Korean weightlifting coach Ri Chol-nam, "highly-concentrated training" is also one of their secrets.
In this file photo taken on Aug. 22, 2018, North Korea`s O Kang-chol celebrates his gold medal in the men`s 69kg weightlifting division at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta. (Yonhap)
"We devote everything to training," Ri told Yonhap News Agency on Friday. "After rigorous training, we carry our country's honor on our back. We don't think about our personal feelings. We're all ready to give our all."
Choe Jon-wi, who took gold in the men's 77-kilogram division at this year's Asian Games, echoes Ri's sentiments.
"When we start training, we don't think about anything else,"
Choe said. "When we enter the competition, we only think about winning."
O Kang-chol, who is now the men's 69kg Asiad champion, said that athletes are determined to lift the country's honor, especially when they're young.
"Scientists or technicians can serve the country for life, but us athletes need to deliver success in their 20s," he said. "It's very meaningful to become pillars to lift our country in our 20s."
Some analysts point out North Korea's weightlifting may have developed by keeping close relationship with China. According to Ri, that view isn't completely false, but it's their unique system that really thrives their weightlifters to become better and better.
"We don't completely ignore things from outside," he said. "We do accept what is good for us. But we set our own standards whether it is for training or sports technology development. With that stance, we adopt training methods, technology and science."
Ri said it's "juche," which translates as "self-reliance," that drives its sports development.
"As we liked to say 'keep your foot on the ground and set your sights on the world,'" he said. "We are looking at the world, but with our own eyes. That will develop our sports." (Yonhap)