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Gymnast Ri Se Gwang wins North Korea's 2nd gold medal in Rio

By Elizabeth Shim
Gymnast Ri Se Gwang wins North Korea's 2nd gold medal in Rio
North Korean artistic gymnast Ri Se Gwang won the second gold medal for Pyongyang, outperforming Japan’s Kenzo Shirai (L), who took the bronze, and Russia’s Denis Abliazin (R), who won the second prize. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A North Korean artistic gymnast won the second gold medal for Pyongyang at the Rio Olympics.

In his first appearance at the Summer Games, Ri Se Gwang took the top prize Monday after earning an average score of 15.691, Yonhap reported.

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Ri won the gold in a competition marked by the absence of his South Korean rival and gold medalist Yang Hak-seon, according to South Korea press.

The spotlight in Rio shined on Ri, a double world champion from 2014-15, while Yang was being treated for injuries to his Achilles' heel.

Ri Se-gwang competes in the men's vault final. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI
Ri's victory is not only the second gold medal for Pyongyang in 2016 -- Rim Jong-sim won in women's weightlifting -- but also the second gold medal for North Korea in men's gymnastics.

In 1992, North Korean gymnast Pae Gil Su won the gold medal for the pommel horse at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

On Monday, Ri's pair of 6.4 vaults, which he had invented, catapulted him to the top. Once he had completed the vaults, his coach ran out to embrace the athlete, according to South Korean reports.

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Jang Ung, the sole North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, presented Ri with his gold medal at the ceremony.

Ri had surpassed Russia's Denis Abliazin by 0.175 of a point and Japan's Kenzo Shirai, who finished third with 15.449 points.

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