Swimming world champion Hwang Sun-woo eyes Olympic medals

SEOUL, One by one, South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo has been crossing things off his to-do list. Next up for the freshly minted world champion in the men's 200-meter freestyle will be an Olympic medal -- or make that medals. Hwang returned home Monday after grabbing two medals at the World Aquatics Championships in Qatar earlier this month. First, he won the 200m freestyle gold medal for his first world title and his third career medal from the competition. Then he capped it off by anchoring South Korea to silver in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay, the country's first-ever medal at any relay event. South Korea finished just one-tenth of a second behind China in the relay at 7:01.94. "My next goal is to reach the Olympic podium in the 200m and stand on the relay podium with my teammates," Hwang told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. "We were disappointed to finish just 0.1 second behind China in the relay, but I think it was a great learning experience for all of us before the biggest competition of them all, the Olympics. If we can address some of our shortcomings in the relay, then an Olympic medal will no longer be a pipe dream." And South Korea was that close in the relay only because Hwang put on a show as the anchor. He covered the final leg in a blistering 1:43.76, faster than anyone in the final. If Hwang had set that time as the leadoff, it would have been recognized as an Asian record. "It was my best relay split. I want to thank my teammates, coaches and trainers for making that possible," Hwang said. "I think it really brightens our hope for the Olympics." Individually, Hwang made South Korean swimming history with his 200m freestyle title. He became the first South Korean swimmer to win a medal at three consecutive world championships and also the first one from the country to win the men's 200m title. His time of 1:44.75 was 0.35 second slower than Hwang's own national record time, but he showcased his maturity and deft race management skills in winning that race. Hwang led the final through 100m. But then Luke Hobson of the United States moved ahead of Hwang at the 150m turn. Hwang still trailed Hobson coming down the stretch, but as Hobson slowed, Hwang was able to find another gear and posted the fastest final split with 26.89 seconds. Hobson ended up taking the bronze medal after coming home in 27.81 seconds. This was a welcoming development for the now 20-year-old Hwang, who, in his Olympic debut as a teenager in Tokyo three years ago, admittedly overpaced himself in the 200m. "In Tokyo, I knew nothing about managing races, and I didn't have good finishes," Hwang said. "This time, I didn't get caught up in trying to keep pace with Hobson, and I let my final spurt take me to first place." Hwang now has one each of gold, silver and bronze medals from world championships. He won silver in the 200m freestyle in 2022 in Budapest and followed it with bronze last year in Fukuoka, Japan. "I really wanted to complete my medal set with a gold medal this time. It feels great to have all three," Hwang said. "In Budapest, I couldn't believe I'd won a medal. Over the past two years, I've been winning medals here and there, and gaining experience. I think that gave me a strong foundation for the gold medal this time." Source: Yonhap News Agency