DRESDEN, Germany -- North Korea's sporting exploits have made plenty of headlines in recent years, but the country's athletes are perhaps better known for their elaborate excuses and tall stories than their prowess on the field of play.
Even so, it still raised eyebrows Tuesday when the coach of the country's women's World Cup soccer team came up with an unexpected and electrifying explanation for his players' inability to keep up with their opponents during their 2-0 defeat to the U.S.
According to The Guardian, Kim Kwang Min told bemused reporters in the German city of Dresden that several players, including the goalkeeper, were still suffering the ill-effects of being struck by lightning.
The incident apparently happened during a practice session in North Korea on June 8, leaving more than five players hospitalized, Kim said.
"When we stayed in Pyongyang during training there was an unexpected accident so our team was not capable of playing," he told Tuesday's post-match press conference. "Our players were hit by lightning during a training match."
The coach said a few players arrived late to Germany after opting to play despite doctors urging them to sit the tournament out.
The U.S. women's team, which scored two second-half goals to claim victory in the Group C opener, was not aware of its opponent's alleged misfortunes. "It's the first we have heard about it," said U.S. striker Abby Wambach.
Tuesday's excuse was the latest in a series of unlikely sports-related claims made by North Korea. Government officials triumphantly declared in 2004 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had shot a 38 with five hole-in-ones in his first attempt at golf.
In 2009, the country's soccer federation claimed South Korea had poisoned its male players after losing a World Cup qualifier.
And last year before the World Cup in South Africa, manager Kim Jong Hun said he was getting coaching advice from the country's leader through a cell phone not visible to the naked eye, a technological feat that he said was masterminded by Kim Jong Il himself.