September 16, 2014 / 5:03 AM / in 3 years

North Korea hails world champion Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has feted wrestler Yang Kyong Il at a reception to celebrate his gold medal at the world championships in Tashkent and said his success had been built on the “wise leadership and deep loving care” of leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea's Yang Kyong-il celebrates on the podium after winning the gold medal in the men's 55 kg free-style at the World Wrestling Championships 2009 in Herning September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong

The North’s official KCNA news agency said Vice-Premier Kim Yong Jin, Minister of Physical Culture and Sports Kim Yong Hun, and other officials and coaches as well as Yang’s family attended the reception.

Yang, who won a bronze at the London Games, won gold in the men’s 57kg freestyle category last week in Uzbekistan.

Vice-Premier Kim hailed Yang’s “grit and pluck” which had demonstrated North Koreas’ dignity and honor on the global stage.

“Yang owed his success to the wise leadership and deep loving care of Kim Jong Un who is energetically guiding the nation’s sports,” KCNA quoted him as saying.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is at the center of a state propaganda drive to turn the isolated country into a “sports superpower” and has rewarded medal-winning athletes with luxury apartments, entertained flamboyant NBA hall of famer Dennis Rodman, and even tried his hand at coaching.

Yang expressed his gratitiude for the North Korean leader for showing faith in him and said he was determined to keep on winning, “always bearing in mind the expectation of the party towards the sportspersons”.

Writing by Peter Rutheford; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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