It was one day 35 years ago when a 13-year old boy went to the then juvenile sports club in Sosong District, Pyongyang, to see his brother. He curiously watched for a while the wrestlers training hard.

Where are you from? The coach asked him.

The little daring boy suddenly asked him to teach how to play wrestling. He was Kim Il.

This was how he became a wrestler. He trained hard with an ambition to be a world champion. He introduced various Korean ssirum techniques into freestyle wrestling and set it as his special technique to throw opponents to the ground by dint of leg hold. He drew the attention of experts just after he took up the sport. He further honed his skills, thus snatching gold medals in the men’s 48kg events at the World Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championships and the 8th Asian Freestyle Championships. He also claimed the title of the 48kg freestyle wrestling at the 25th Olympic Games in 1992, bringing glory to the country.

Kim Il won the prize at the 25th Olympic Gamesheld in Barcelona, Spain

That year he was awarded the title of People’s Athlete and became the thrice Asian champion by working hard to live up to the expectations of the country. As he won another gold in the 48kg freestyle wrestling event at the 26th Olympic Games in 1996, he became the twice Olympic champion and the country conferred on him the title of the Labour Hero, the top honour of the DPRK citizen.

When he finished his career as a wrestler, he entered the physical education faculty of Kim Hyong Jik University of Education. After graduation of the university, he was appointed a staff member of the then Korea Sports Guidance Committee. He works now as secretary general of the Wrestling Association.

He has paid close attention to drawing up the training curriculum and teaching programmes in keeping with the requirements of the developing times and the Koreans’ constitution and training promising reserve wrestlers. Therefore, he contributed greatly to producing such excellent wrestlers as Yang Kyong Il, a twice world champion, and Yun Won Chol, a world champion, both People’s Athletes.

Kim is now acting as secretary general of the Wrestling Association

Kim is now acting as secretary general of the Wrestling Association

Still, he devotes his all to the training of wrestlers. He always says to players that they should live a worthwhile life today so that they can recall it proudly tomorrow.

Article: Kang Su Jong

Photo: Kim Yun Hyok