By Yoo Jee-ho
GWANGJU, July 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korean diver Woo Ha-ram could have been forgiven for getting excited about qualifying for the final in his very first event at the FINA World Championships here on Friday, but the 21-year-old maintained his composure and kept his focus on the task at hand.
Woo finished third in the preliminary for the 1m springboard at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. It was held hours before the opening ceremony of the competition, and fueled hopes that the host nation could celebrate its first medalist come Sunday's final.
Woo scored 396.10 points, 33.30 points behind the first-place Wang Zongyuan of China, but comfortably inside the top 12 eligible for the final.
"This is my fourth world championships and I've never finished third in the preliminary. I did better than I expected," Woo said. "I wanted to be steady, and I was able to avoid big mistakes."
The 1m springboard isn't an Olympic sport, and Woo's main events here will be 3m springboard, 10m platform and synchronized events with teammate Kim Yeong-nam.
Woo has never finished higher than seventh in any event at previous world championships, and in the 1m springboard, his career high is ninth from 2015.
The final for the 1m springboard is Sunday. And on Saturday, Woo will compete in the synchronized 3m springboard preliminary with Kim, who just missed out on the 1m springboard final by placing 13th.
"I considered synchronized events really important," Woo said. "Yeong-nam and I have been working really hard for them and we could challenge for a medal."
Woo said he won't get too caught up with trying to win an individual medal. He said Giovanni Tocci, the 2017 bronze medalist who ranked eighth in Friday's preliminary, might have conserved his energy for the final.
"The final will be a whole different battle," Woo said. "I will try to compete with confidence and make sure I won't have any regrets afterward."
Though he didn't show much emotion during the preliminary, Woo said he was touched by support of partisan fans.
"This was the first time I heard people in the stands chant my name at the world championships," Woo said. "I was so grateful."
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