DPRK girl building canoeist career

By Jong Tang Song

DPRK canoeist Ko Haeng Bok

DPRK canoeist Ko Haeng Bok

"One-minute-long 40 kg bench press: record high of 83", "great physical ability" and promising canoeist"--this is part of a comment a German publication made about Ko Haeng Bok from the DPRK after she underwent a test during a joint training session organized by the International Canoeing Federation prior to its 7th women’s Canoe Cup tournament.

The international competition took place in Hungary on May 18-19, drawing more than 60 players from 16 countries and regions including the DPRK, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Germany and Hungary.

Ko Haeng Bok won preliminary, semi-final and final matches in the senior women's 200-metre singles by overpowering all odds-on favourites.

And she came second and third respectively in 500- and 200-metre pairs to bag three medals in total.

"I witnessed outstanding abilities of Korean players in the current event. Ko Haeng Bok especially is excellent in physical preparedness and may well match world aces in technical aspects," said the Serbian head coach of the Chinese national youth team.

Hailing from Anju of South Phyongan Province, she took up canoeing seven years ago.

Her sturdy body with powerful legs caught the eye of coach Kim Tok Yong, who toured the city to pick recruits.

"The only daughter of mine was fond of sports in her childhood, but I didn’t want to make her an athlete as even boys find it difficult to do sports by profession. Moreover, the coach suggested I let this apple of my eye do this little known canoeing, rather than well-known football, so I rejected the suggestion. But I finally gave in to my determined girl and persuasive coach," recalled Ko’s mother Kim Ok Hui.

After coming to the Pyongyang Sports Club, she honed her skills under the guidance of the coach and two years later she won the youth event of a national tournament to draw the attention of experts.

She made her international debut at the Asian canoe championships held in Indonesia in 2015.

She came third in the senior women’s 200-metre singles. And she grabbed a bronze medal in the 200-metre pairs in the Asian Cup canoe competition held in Uzbekistan the following year, and silvers respectively in the 200-metre singles and the 200- and 500-metre quartets in the Asian canoe championships in China’s Shanghai in 2017.

Last year, she distinguished herself as an Asian canoe ace by winning the 200- and 500-metre singles in the Asian Cup tournament in Chinese Hong Kong.

"Haeng Bok has a natural aptitude for the sport. She excels both in physical and intellectual faculties and her tenacity and firm will are especially good qualities as an athlete," said Kim Tok Yong.

(Source: The Pyongyang Times - July 17, 2019)

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