‘I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I was surrounded by my teammates who had reached milestones together. “I feel proud that the level of Korean swimming has risen,” smiled Hwang Sun-woo (20-Gangwon Provincial Office), the poster child of Korean swimming.
Hwang returned home from the 2023 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, on July 31 at Incheon International Airport. His face was bright after reaching several milestones at the World Championships.
First, he finished third in the men’s 200-meter freestyle in a new Korean record of 1:44.42. It was his second consecutive medal after finishing second in the event in Budapest last year (1:44.47). It is a record that even the “original Marine Boy” Park Tae-hwan has not achieved.
In the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay with Lee Ho-joon, Kim Woo-min and Yang Jae-hoon, he broke the Korean record in both the prelims (7:06.82) and final (7:04.07-6th). He also set a new Korean record in the men’s 400-meter medley relay (3:34.25) with Lee Ju-ho, Choi Dong-yeol, and Kim Young-beom.
Reflecting on the meet as a whole, Hwang said, “First of all, I’m happy to get a bronze medal in the 200m freestyle, breaking the Korean record. In the 100m freestyle, my time was not as good. It was disappointing, but I will have to train hard to do better at the Asian Games.” “In the 800m, I was not feeling well, so my time was poor. However, my brothers were able to push me to a good time and I was able to set a new Korean record. I’m happy to finish with a good result.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that this event marked a ‘golden age’ for Korean swimming. Other athletes, including Hwang Sun-woo, shared in the joy as they set record after record. “At the 2019 Gwangju Games, there weren’t many athletes who made it to the 바카라 semifinals and finals. From Budapest last year to this one, we’ve been making finals and winning medals. I feel that Korean swimming has improved a lot. I’m really proud that I was able to be a part of it.”
The “growth” of the other athletes has a positive effect on Hwang. “It’s definitely not just one person, but several, so we can race in good faith. It helps me to improve my time. Just four years ago, I was number one in Korea in the 48s, but now I’m around eighth or ninth. I’m proud that the level has increased.”
The World Championships are a great start to the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou. South Korea has won the most gold medals at the Asian Games with four at Guangzhou 2010. It’s not just one star anymore. Having proven its competitiveness, it will be interesting to see if Korean swimming can improve on its best performance in Hangzhou with its ‘golden generation’.
Hwang says, “There are many swimmers in the world rankings in the freestyle events. I think it will be an Asian Games where everyone will do their best and get the medals and records they want,” he said.
They want to keep the momentum going. Hwang said, “There is almost a month and a half left. I want to get on the podium in the 100m and 200m freestyle. My 200m World Championships time is No. 1 in Asia. I want to defend that position and also do well in the 800-meter freestyle relay.”
There is no time to rest. “I’m going to go home today and have a good night’s rest,” Hwang said, “but I can’t take a break from swimming right now. The Asian Games are in a month and a half. I will continue to swim and return to the Jincheon Athletes’ Village next week.”