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Nat'l swimming team returns home from worlds with 1 medal, 8 nat'l records in tow

July 31, 2023 - 20:29 By Yonhap
South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo holds up his bronze medal won from the men's 200-meter freestyle at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, upon arriving at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 31, 2023. (Yonhap)

The South Korean national swimming team returned home from the world championships in Japan on Monday, having bagged one medal and set eight national records in the pool.

Hwang Sun-woo, who won bronze in the men's 200-meter freestyle, was South Korea's lone medalist at the World Aquatics Championships, held in Fukuoka, Japan, from July 14 to Sunday. He also helped two relay teams break national records.

With a national record time of 1 minute 44.42 seconds in the 200 freestyle final, Hwang, a silver medalist in 2022, became the first South Korean swimmer to win a medal at back-to-back world championships. He joined fellow freestyle swimmer Park Tae-hwan as the only two South Korean swimmers with multiple world championship medals.

A small piece of Korean swimming history was made in the 200 freestyle final, where Hwang swam alongside teammate Lee Ho-joon, who ended in sixth place. The two became the first pair of South Koreans to compete in the same final at a swimming world championship.

In the men's 800 freestyle, Kim Woo-min broke an 11-year-old national record, held by Park, by 2.24 seconds to finish at 7:47.69.

Kim ranked a career-high fifth in the 400 freestyle while breaking his personal best twice on the same day.

Hwang, Lee, Kim and Yang Jae-hoon broke their own national record twice in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay -- first in the heats and then in the final -- en route to a sixth-place finish in 7:04.07.

Hwang then joined Lee Ju-ho, Choi Dong-yeol and Kim Young-beom for the national record time of 3:34.25 in the men's 4x100 medley relay.

Elsewhere, Choi established a new national standard in the men's 100 breaststroke at 59.59 seconds.

Choi, Kim, Lee Eun-ji and Hur Yeon-kyung now own the new national record in the mixed 4x100 medley relay with 3:47.09. Hur, Yang, Ji Yu-chan and Jeong So-eun combined for the national record time of 3:27.99 in the mixed 4x100 freestyle relay.

The next major competition for the swimming team will be the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, starting in September.

With the Asian Games less than two months away, Hwang said he won't have the luxury of extended rest.

"I can't take time off from swimming now," Hwang told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. "It's going to be a grueling stretch from now and into next year. We have the Asian Games in September, the National Sports Festival in October and the national team trials in November. Then we will have the world championships again in February and the Olympics in Paris in July. But athletes are supposed to train and compete accordingly. I want to keep setting good records."

Hwang will be the Asian Games gold medal favorite in the 200 freestyle, but in the 100, he will have to battle China's own, Pan Zhanle, who owns the Asian record time of 47.22 seconds. Pan finished fourth in Fukuoka, while Hwang was eliminated in the semifinals.

"In the 200 freestyle, I am the No. 1 in Asia, and I will try to keep it that way at the Asian Games," Hwang said. "In the 100, Pan Zhanle is far ahead of my best time (former Asian record of 47.56). Honestly, it's going to be hard to make up that ground in just a month and a half. But I will try to narrow the gap as much as I can and reach the podium." (Yonhap)