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Emerging swimmer Hwang Sun-woo looking to outdo himself at world championships

All News 16:22 June 14, 2022

JINCHEON, South Korea, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo liked the view from the top of the podium at the short course world championships in December, so much so that he would love nothing more than to return to the same place -- at the long course worlds in Budapest this month.

Hwang, being groomed as the next big thing in South Korean swimming, met with the media on Tuesday at the National Training Center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul. He will compete at the FINA World Championships in the Hungarian capital starting Saturday.

South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo trains at the National Training Center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

The 19-year-old represents South Korea's best medal hope, someone who could become the first South Korean since Park Tae-hwan to win a world championships medal -- if not this year, then in the near future.

"I don't have full confidence yet, but given my current form, I think I should be able to improve on my times from the Tokyo Olympics," Hwang said.

He was referring to his record-setting performances in the Japanese capital last summer. In his Olympic debut, Hwang set an Asian record in the 100m freestyle semifinals with 47.56 seconds. In the 200m freestyle final, Hwang was on a world record pace early before losing steam and finishing in seventh place. He had set the world junior record time of 1:44.62 in the heats earlier in the competition.

Then in December last year, Hwang won the 200m freestyle title at the world short course championships, held in a 25m pool rather than the Olympic-sized 50m pool.

South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo speaks during a press conference at the National Training Center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

In March this year, Hwang won the 200m free final at the national team trials in 1:45.79. It's the world's eighth-fastest time in that race this year.

"I posted great times in Tokyo last year, and it's incredibly difficult for me to top them," Hwang admitted. "But I want to enjoy the feeling of being on the top of the podium again."

Hwang and a few of his teammates had spent six weeks in spring training in Australia, under the tutelage of veteran instructor Ian Pope.

In an interview with South Korean media in May, Pope, who has worked with several Olympic gold medalists and world champions, praised Hwang's "beautiful technique." Pope said the South Korean youngster is a more efficient swimmer than two Australian greats, Grant Hackett and Michael Klim.

Hwang said training with Pope was a major boost to his confidence and added he had also made technical improvements while Down Under.

Specifically, Pope worked with Hwang on his underwater dolphin kicks at the start and at each turn. Hwang had been doing only three or four dolphin kicks at most, and Pope pushed him to increase that number to six, so that he could propel himself better off the wall. That extra couple of dolphin kicks could be the difference between a medal and an off-podium finish because dolphin kicks push swimmers faster than surface stroke.

South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo trains at the National Training Center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

"I've gotten much better at dolphin kicks, but I've only had a month and a half to work at it," Hwang said. "I think it's likely that I will go back to my old habits at the worlds, but if I can consciously try to do a couple more kicks, it'll help with my speed."

Hwang said as he has gained more international experience over the recent months, he has also become more adept at managing his races.

"I overpaced myself in Tokyo because I lacked experience," Hwang recalled. "I learned from that experience, and I was able to win gold at the short course worlds by being smarter."

Hwang plans to compete in his two main events, 100m and 200m freestyle, and could add a team relay event to his schedule.

South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo trains at the National Training Center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on June 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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