x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

North Koreans have taken to synchronised swimming

Athletes from the isolated nation have attracted a lot of attention during international competitions in recent times.

Eight athletes from North Korea are competing at the Asian Swimming Championships. Satish Kumar / The National
Eight athletes from North Korea are competing at the Asian Swimming Championships. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Has there ever been a more curious sporting sight in this country as a North Korean synchronised swimming team?

The aquatic art is peculiar at the best of times, but when it is being carried out by residents of a nation so isolated from the world that it forbids its people from freely travelling outside its borders, we must surely be discussing an occurrence of extreme rarity.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea sent 56 athletes to London this summer to compete in 11 sports at the Olympic Games. They did so, according to ABC news, in the knowledge that a strong showing would see them collect a new fridge or car or television, while a poor performance could see them deployed to a labour camp.

This week, North Korea brought eight athletes and five coaches to Dubai and they showed the country's strength in unity transfers to the pool as DPRK finished on the podium in six of the seven events, including taking silver in the team free and team technical formats.

When approached for comment, the coach of the North Korean team declined to speak on the record, but said he had enjoyed his time in the Emirates. They return to Pyongyang today.

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