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North Korea withdraws from 2020 Olympics in Tokyo; two North Korean women's freestyle berths to be affected

by Various sources

Homepage photo: Yong Mi Pak of North Korea celebrates her gold medal at the 2019 Senior World Championships. UWW photo by Tony Rotundo.

International media reported today that North Korea has withdrawn from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. North Korea is reportedly the first nation to pull out of the Games.

This will affect the sport of wrestling, as North Korea has qualified in two women's weight classes, and would have had an opportunity to add more during the Asian Olympic Qualifier in Almaty, Kazakhstan this weekend (April 9-11).

INSIDE THE GAMES: North Korea withdraws from Tokyo 2020 over COVID-19 fears

by Dan Palmer

North Korea has withdrawn from Tokyo 2020 after the country cited coronavirus fears.

A statement on the secretive state's official Sports in the DPRK Korea website said authorities want to "protect athletes".

The country has become the first to pull out of the rearranged Tokyo 2020 because of COVID-19.

Click for entire Inside the Games story

WALL STREET JOURNAL: North Korea Will Skip Tokyo Olympics, Citing Covid-19 Fears

by Timothy W. Martin and Alastair Gale

North Korea became the first country to withdraw from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, citing safety concerns because of the coronavirus pandemic and dashing hopes that the global sporting event could provide a forum to engage the regime.

The decision by North Korea’s Olympic Committee reflected a desire “to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by Covid-19,” according to a Monday report, carried on the website of the state-run “Sports in the DPR Korea” outlet. The official name of North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Tokyo Games, already delayed a year by the pandemic, are slated to begin in July. Japanese officials have expressed confidence in safeguards to protect the Summer Olympics from outbreaks, including blocking overseas spectators from attending. But before North Korea, no other country had publicly stated plans to skip the event.

Click for WSJ story

At the 2019 Senior World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, North Korea qualified athletes at two weight classes, 53 kg and 62 kg. Included was a World champion. The qualifiers were:

Women's Freestyle 53 kg/116.5 lbs.

2019 World champion – North Korea (Yong Mi Pak)

Women's Freestyle 62 kg/136.5 lbs.

2019 World fifth place – North Korea (Jong Sim Rim)

Pak defeated Japan's Mayu Mukaida in the 62 kg finals in Nur-Sultan, and was expected to battle for a medal at the Tokyo Games.

Currently, United World Wrestling has not announced any changes to the Olympic Qualifications based upon the North Korean withdrawl.

At the 2019 World Championships, where the top six athletes qualified, placing seventh at 53 kg was Luisa Valeverde Melendres of Ecuador. Valeverde has not yet qualified for Tokyo.

Placing seventh at 62 kg was Yulia Tkach of Ukraine. At the 2021 European Qualification Tournament, Ukraine's Irina Koliadenko won the title, qualifying Ukraine for the Olympics. It is unclear if UWW would replace the North Korean withdrawl at 62 kg with the highest remaining placewinner from the Nur-Sultan, or from the European Olympic Qualification Tournament. Kayla Miracle of the USA was eighth at the 2019 Worlds and has already qualified for Tokyo at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier. Krizsta Incze of Romania, who was ninth in the 2019 Worlds, has not yet qualified her nation.