HANGZHOU, China -- After sending a message to the rest of the swimming competition at the Asian Games by winning the men's 50-meter freestyle heats Monday morning, South Korean swimmer Ji Yu-chan said he would take it a step further.
Ji set an Asian Games record with 21.84 seconds to top all qualifiers at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Aquatic Sports Arena in the heats. With his confidence running at an all-time high, Ji declared he was now ready to win the gold medal in the final scheduled for the evening.
The 21-year-old then went out and did exactly that, breaking his own Asiad record to win the gold in 21.72 seconds.
"I had such a great time in the heats, and so I went out on a limb and made that declaration," Ji said. "I am happy I was able to make it come true."
That moment of self-fulfilling prophecy made Ji the first swimming champion for South Korea at this Asiad. On Day 2 of the swimming races, Ji also became the first non-Chinese swimmer to win a gold in the men's races.
"I watched every race yesterday, and saw Chinese swimmers sweeping up every gold medal," Ji said. "I figured it'd be nice if I could put a stop to that streak. I am really happy I've done it."
Ji said he had enough confidence in his abilities to talk the talk and then walk the walk.
"To be able to win this gold away from home, in China, means that much more to me," Ji said. "Hopefully, my teammates will pick it up from here and win more gold medals from now on."
Ji had earlier said his goal at this competition is to get into the 21-second territory. Accomplishing that goal will do wonders for his career, Ji said.
"This record and the gold medal make me fall more deeply in love with swimming," Ji said. "This will push me to keep working even harder."
Ji said he wanted to challenge the Asian continental record of 21.67 seconds, set by Shinri Shioura of Japan in April 2019.
"I came up just short there. I guess I was a bit more nervous than I thought," Ji said. "I am satisfied with my time but I won't be too content. I will continue to put in the work." (Yonhap)