Weightlifter Won Hyon Sim Sets First-Ever World Records in 45-Kilogram Division

Tiny, but mighty; on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, weightlifter Won Hyon Sim made history in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The city is hosting the 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships (AWC) this year from Feb. 3 to 10, one of the final major competitions before the 2024 Olympic Games.

Kicking off the competition in spectacular fashion, 45-kilogram Sim set inaugural world records in the snatch (86 kilograms, or 189.5 pounds) and Total (192 kilograms or 423.2 pounds, the sum of her best snatch and clean & jerk).

[Related: 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships Full Results]

How It Happened

Prior to this year’s AWC, no featherweight woman weightlifter in the world had been able to crack the world standard benchmarks: 

85KG snatch

108KG clean & jerk

191KG Total

Editor’s Note: Sim lifted 106 kilograms or 233.9 pounds in the clean & jerk, which was enough for the gold medal at the AWC but did not exceed the standard. 

“World standards” are figurative numbers put forth by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) in 2018 when the organization remade its weight categories. Establishing world standards prevents athletes from setting an avalanche of new records when a new weight class is rolled out. An athlete must exceed the value of the standard by a margin of at least one kilogram in order to set the first official world record

Despite existing for roughly six years, the Women’s 45-kilogram category does not contain the same breadth of talent found in other divisions, since there are simply fewer qualified athletes with the requisite stature. Furthermore, the 45-kilo class won’t be showcased at the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris. As such, some weightlifters may view competing in the division as unproductive if they aspire to the Olympic Games. 

North Korea Runs the Table

At just 21 years of age, Sim has inarguably established herself as the best women’s featherweight weightlifter in the world with her performance in Tashkent. The 2024 AWC was also only her second-ever appearance on an international weightlifting stage:

Won Hyon Sim | Competition History

2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships: 1st | 45 kilograms

2019 Asian Youth Weightlifting Championships: 1st | 49 kilograms

[Related: The 10 Best Weightlifters of 2023]

But Sim is far from the only North Korean weightlifter to reach international acclaim in recent months. After a years’ long hiatus from the sport, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) returned in force at the 19th Asian Games last autumn.

Then, in Dec. 2023, The DPRK won nine out of 20 weight classes at the IWF Grand Prix II across the Men’s and Women’s divisions. More than usual international leader China, who are not attending the AWC this year. With China nowhere to be found, the DPRK has a rare opportunity in Tashkent to lock in new world records without objection from its most competent rival. 

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Featured Image courtesy of Weightlifting House

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