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Confident high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok takes aim at world title

All News 14:01 June 30, 2022

INCHEON, June 30 (Yonhap) -- Having bagged his first career world indoor title earlier this year, South Korean high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok is confident he can do the same at the outdoor world championships next month -- so much so that he has told fans to mark their calendar and make his appearance an appointment viewing.

The World Athletics Championships will open on July 15 in Eugene, Oregon. In South Korean time, the heats for the men's high jump are set for 2:10 a.m. on July 16, followed by the final at 9:45 a.m. on July 19.

"It's going to be the morning of the 19th (in July), and I will put on a great show for people here," Woo told reporters at Incheon International Airport on Thursday before departing for the United States. "I am going to send some positive energy back home with my gold medal."

South Korean high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok speaks with reporters at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, just west of Seoul, on June 30, 2022, before departing for the United States for the World Athletics Championships. (Yonhap)

Woo's brash confidence isn't entirely unfounded. Woo won the world indoor title in March in Belgrade by clearing 2.34 meters and then captured his first Diamond League title in May with 2.33 meters.

Woo holds three of the four best outdoor records in high jump, with 2.33 meters, 2.32 meters and 2.30 meters.

The best mark of the season belongs to Ilya Ivanyuk of Russia, who cleared 2.34m earlier this month.

However, the World Athletics (WA), the international governing body for track and field, has banned athletes from Russia and Belarus from the world championships, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

With or without Ivanyuk, Woo would have been considered among the favorites in Eugene, along with the two jumpers who shared the Olympic gold medal last year, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar.

Woo finished in fourth place in Tokyo behind those two, but he has outperformed both this year. Woo now thinks the tables have turned and those other jumpers will be conscious of Woo's presence, not the other way around.

South Korean high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok poses for photos at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, just west of Seoul, on June 30, 2022, before departing for the United States for the World Athletics Championships. (Yonhap)

"Barshim and Tamberi are both great athletes, but after beating them in competitions, I don't worry too much about them now," Woo said. "I am going to show those rivals just how well-prepared I am for the worlds. I'd love to put on a perfect performance and watch other athletes struggle."

Woo has already made history by becoming the first South Korean athlete to win a world indoor title and a Diamond League gold medal. His next target is to become the first from this country to capture an outdoor world title.

"I always want the 'first' title. I want to keep making history and putting my name into the record books," Woo said. "It takes so much hard work to accomplish that. And I can confidently tell you that I've worked so hard for this moment. And I am determined to show that on the field. This is my opportunity to win a world title, and I am going to come home with the heaviest medal around my neck."

South Korean high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok competes during the high jump portion of the men's decathlon event at the National Athletics Championships at Jeongseon Stadium in Jeongseon, 150 kilometers east of Seoul, on June 22, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Association of Athletics Federations. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Woo said the mental challenge will be just as difficult to handle as the physical one.

"I am really anxious to get going. I'd love to jump right about now," Woo said. "But trying not to get ahead of myself is part of my preparation. I want to make sure I am at my best the day of competition."

Woo will aim to become just the fourth male high jumper to win both indoor and outdoor world titles and join Patrik Sjoberg, Javier Sotomayor and Barshim. Of that trio, only Sotoymayor, the double world champion in 1993, accomplished that feat in the same year.

In this EPA file photo from March 20, 2022, Woo Sang-hyeok of South Korea celebrates after winning gold in the men's high jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships at Stark Arena in Belgrade. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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