South Korean artistic swimmers Lee Ri-young and Hur Yoon-seo hold themselves to high standards, so much so that their individual success at the world championships here might not have been enough to compensate for their sense of disappointment in duet events.
Together, Lee and Hur just missed out on making the finals of the duet technical and duet free events at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. They finished in 13th place in the preliminary rounds for both, where only the top 12 advanced to the final. They had reached the final in the duet technical at last year's worlds.
Individually, Hur finished sixth in the women's solo free event in Fukuoka, the highest placement ever by a South Korean artistic swimmer at the worlds. Lee ended up in ninth place in the women's solo technical event, the second-best world championships performance by a South Korean in artistic swimming.
Speaking to Yonhap News Agency after their gala performance on Saturday, the final day of artistic swimming here, both athletes said they could have done better in the duet events, while quickly shifting their focus to the next big event this year, the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
"We set out to reach the finals here, and unfortunately, we weren't able to accomplish that," Lee, 22, said at Marine Messe Hall Fukuoka A in the port city. "But our next objective is to win a medal at the Asian Games. Asian swimmers have made great strides, but we've improved quite a bit, too."
Hur, 17, said she tried to look on the brighter side of things.
"Even though the results left us disappointed, that just means we have room for further improvement," Hur added. "We will go back and look at areas where we need to improve, and get ready to win a medal at the Asian Games."
The two performed their gala program to "Hype Boy," a megahit single from the K-pop sensation NewJeans.
"When we started working on our gala routine, this song was a huge hit," Lee said with a smile. "And since there are a lot of K-pop fans in Japan, we wanted to put on a show for them."
At the end of the gala show, artistic swimmers from the host country Japan went into the pool and then invited everyone else to join them. It created a spectacle of dozens of artistic swimmers dancing, clapping and hollering all at once.
"During competition, everyone was so locked in," Lee said. "And to see them all here together, it provided a huge sense of camaraderie. We all know how hard everyone worked to get to this point, and it was a pretty poignant moment."
Lee and Hur will only have a short break before launching their preparation for the Asian Games in September. Hur, in particular, will have to keep juggling her academics as a Seoul-based high school senior and an elite athlete. Being in the final year of high school in South Korea is stressful enough in itself, since students face the ever-demanding College Scholastic Ability Test in November.
Hur seemed unfazed by the challenge, though.
"It's obviously not easy being a student-athlete as a high school senior, but I always try to study whenever I find the time to do so," said Hur, who spends majority of her time inside the national training center well outside Seoul. "When I do get to go to school, I try to be the best student that I can be. And when I am training, then I do so with a sense of pride representing the country."
Source: Yonhap News Agency