Ri Se Gwang salutes after winning the men’s vaulting horse in the artistic gymnastics at the 31st Olympic Games in 2016.
A sturdy DPRK gymnast with glittering eyes emanated confidence, self-possession and dauntless spirit as he dashed along the track like an agile tiger. It was the impression Ri Se Gwang (pictured) left on the world people.
He was born in Tanchon City, South Hamgyong Province, and started artistic gymnastics at seven.
After cultivating his talent at the artistic gymnastic group of the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace, he was picked to the April 25 Sports Club as a reserve player at 10. He began to take part in domestic games at 13 and distinguished himself at juvenile, junior and master-player grades.
He bagged his first gold medal at the vaulting horse event of the 15th Asian Games held in December 2006. Unfortunately, he got the third place at the 40th World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2007.
“I felt ashamed of myself as I saw foreign players performing more difficult movements than mine. Worse still, I made a mistake in performing a movement named after a foreign player,” recalled Ri.
Through the championships he keenly felt the need to develop a movement of his own style with high degrees of difficulty to challenge the world.
Therefore, he buckled down to creating such a movement with the help of his coach.
In general, vaulting horse is a risky sport, especially because the ankles are subject to a great impact when landing. Ri’s was an unimaginably difficult movement which has an incomparably greater impact on the ankles than other movements.
He unveiled this creation at the 5th Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2012 to win a gold medal.
When the world gymnastics circle was in a tumult of excitement over the new movement, Ri was not flattered. In vaulting horse, the marks of two different movements are added up for the total, and he wanted to execute two new movements.
Finally, the world witnessed the new movements he created at the 45th FIG World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2014. They were named Ri Se Gwang movements afterwards.
He won gold medals at the 46th FIG World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2015 and the 31st Olympic Games in 2016 in succession.
Gymnasts usually retire in their latter twenties, but he entered the 48th FIG World Artistic Gymnastics Championships at a far older age and won another gold to become a three-time world champion.
“If he had sought only his own interests and fame, he would have retired before. As he valued the honour of the country above anything else, he continued to play despite so many injuries and failures,” said head coach Ri Man Sop.