LONDON (Reuters) – Weightlifting powerhouse North Korea are not on the list of entrants for this month’s world championships in the United States.
The country’s lifters, who have won five Olympic gold medals since 2008, were expected to shine in Anaheim, but did not feature on the entry list released by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) on Tuesday.
North Korea gave no explanation for not entering a team for the championships, which take place from Nov. 28-Dec. 5.
It would be the first time North Korea has failed to send a team to the worlds since 2009, when the hosts were South Korea.
The North Koreans’ chances of dominating the competition had improved drastically after the IWF cracked down on doping and China, Russia and seven other nations were banned for one year.
North Korea have never topped the medals table at a world championship in any major sport but excel at weightlifting.
Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, however, have escalated in recent months, with U.S. President Donald Trump vowing to halt the country’s nuclear ambitions.
The World Championships organizing committee had said last month it did not foresee any visa problems for the North Korean team.
In recent years weightlifting has become the most successful sport for North Korea, who came second in the medal count at the London 2012 Olympics and fourth in Rio de Janeiro last year.
They have also made the top four at the past three world championships.
Editing by Ken Ferris/Greg Stutchbury