DAEGU (South Korea), Aug 27: North Korea claimed its first gold medal of the World Student Games on Wednesday as it backed down from repeated threats to walk out of the event on security grounds.

Nineteen-year-old Hong Ok-Song crowned a positive day for the North Koreans with her victory in the women’s 57kg judo, while compatriot An Gum Ae was overpowered by Audrey La Rizza of France in the 52kg final.

North Korea agreed to stay in the tournament after South Korea promised to crack down on anti-Pyongyang protests.

“The South Korean government expressed their regret and promised not to let this kind of incident happen again,” said delegation head Jeon Kuk-Man.

“So for the citizens of Daegu and to reward the love they have shown us, and to respect the spirit of the games, we declare that the North Korean delegation will continue to participate in the Daegu Universiade.”

North Korea had threatened to boycott the tournament after a protest in Seoul earlier this month and appeared close to pulling out after a demonstration erupted in violence over the weekend.

Also on Wednesday, visiting International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge expressed his support for a joint North-South team at next year’s Athens Olympics.

“The IOC would really like this proposal and would definitely agree to it but my remark on this is, if this is to be effective for the Athens 2004 games, the decision has to be taken very quickly.”

Hong’s gold puts North Korea 15th in the medals table, 20 behind leaders China, who are grooming a crop of athletes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Hosts South Korea held on to their second position with a late victory in the men’s artistic gymnastics team event.

Wang Tianling maintained China’s 100 percent record in diving events on Wednesday, narrowly beating teammate Wang Kenan to the top spot in the men’s 3m springboard.

Wu Tao threw 62.32m to win the men’s discus by more than a metre, and the Chinese men’s foil and women’s sabre teams both triumphed in fencing.

Medal standings

China 21 13 6 40

South Korea 17 6 6 29

Russia 16 11 22 49

France 6 3 3 12

Britain 5 2 2 9

Ukraine 4 8 6 18

Japan 4 4 13 21

United States 3 6 10 19

Italy 2 2 2 6

Germany 2 1 3 6

Australia 1 4 3 8

Spain 1 3 5 9

Brazil 1 2 4 7

Taiwan 1 2 4 7

North Korea 1 2 0 3

—AFP

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