(LEAD) S. Korea captures silver in men’s swimming relay at worlds

SEOUL, South Korea has soared to silver in the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the world swimming championships in Qatar, the country's first relay medal ever at the competition. The team of Yang Jae-hoon, Kim Woo-min, Lee Ho-joon and Hwang Sun-woo finished the race in 7:01.94 at the World Aquatics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha on Friday (local time). South Korea finished just one-tenth of a second behind the Chinese quartet of Ji Xinjie, Wang Haoyu, Pan Zhanle and Zhang Zhanshuo. The United States finished third in 7:02.08. Earlier in the competition, Kim won the men's 400m freestyle gold medal and Hwang captured the men's 200m freestyle gold medal. They gave South Korea multiple gold medals at a single world championship for the first time and they have added a silver medal to their name. Hwang has also become the most decorated South Korean swimmer in world championship history with four career medals. Before this year, Hwang earned silver in 2022 and bronze in 2023 in the 200m freest yle. He broke a tie with Park Tae-hwan, who won 400m freestyle gold medals in 2007 and 2011 and a 200m freestyle bronze medal in 2007. South Korea found itself in last place after the opening leg, with the leadoff Yang touching the pad in 1:47.78. The United States had its fastest swimmer, Luke Hobson, going first, and opened up a huge lead at 1:45.26, with no other team in the 1:45 territory. Kim quickly made up ground for South Korea. By the time he made it to the 250m mark, South Korea had climbed to fifth place, now 2.22 seconds behind the U.S. At the halfway point, South Korea was in third place, but the U.S. lead grew to 3.51 seconds despite Kim's excellent split of 1:44.93. Lee kept South Korea in the bronze medal position in his leg and also managed to shed the American lead to 3.25 seconds with 200m to go. Lee covered his leg in 1:45.47. China also put pressure on the U.S., as Pan, the 100m freestyle world record holder, went 1:43.90 in the third leg. As the South Korean anchor, Hwang covered his first 50m in a blistering 23.94 seconds, the fastest in the final, and the U.S. lead was now just 2.36 seconds. South Korea was still in third place with 50m remaining, though it was now only 0.79 second back. It set up a thrilling finish for the top three teams. For China, the 16-year-old sensation Zhang caught David Johnston of the U.S. over the home stretch, and Hwang couldn't quite catch the teenager despite his 26.44 seconds in the last 50m, the best final split time in the pool. Hwang led all swimmers in the anchor leg with 1:43.76. Zhang's time was 1:45.80 and Johnston came home in 1:47.15. "I am so proud to have won silver in such a major event with my great teammates," Hwang said in a video interview released by his agency, All That Sports. "I wasn't sure if I could catch the U.S. or China toward the end. But I was able to get a good spurt and did my best. It's a little disappointing we finished just 0.1 second back, but there's room for improvement." Kim said he and his teammates can now start dreaming of winning an Olympic medal together in Paris this summer. "We lost out to China for first place here, but that's only going to fuel our team as we prepare for the Olympics," Kim said. "We're going to try to post great results at the Olympics, too." This has been the most successful world championships for South Korea. Before the swimming competition began, South Korea collected two bronze medals in diving, with Kim Su-ji finishing third in the women's 3m springboard and then earning another bronze with Yi Jae-gyeong in the mixed 3m synchronized. Source: Yonhap News Agency