After noteworthy performances at the recent world swimming championships, leading South Korean aquatic athletes said Wednesday they will try to build on that momentum to grab medals at the upcoming Asian Games.
At a joint press conference in Seoul, artistic swimmers Lee Ri-young and Hur Yoon-seo said they believe they're capable of reaching the podium in Hangzhou, China, this fall.
Lee and Hur just missed the finals in both the duet technical and duet free events at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. They finished in 13th place in the preliminaries for both events, with only the top 12 advancing to the finals. Individually, though, Lee ranked ninth in the women's solo technical event and Hur finished sixth in the women's solo free event, the highest placement ever by a South Korean artistic swimmer at the worlds.
"Our goal was to reach the finals in both solo and duet events. Even though we didn't make the finals as a duet, we still saw potential for a medal at the Asian Games," Lee, 22, said. "I think we've made a lot of progress in our artistic elements and we'll try to keep working on them."
Hur, 17, credited her Ukraine-born coach, Oksana Pismennaya, with helping her and Lee take the next step technically.
"I think we have gotten better in many other areas without compromising our artistic strengths," Hur said. "Even though we were disappointed not to make the duet finals at the worlds, we'll try to learn from that experience and go for a medal at the Asian Games."
Diver Kim Yeong-taek also said he had a valuable learning experience at the worlds. He finished 11th in the men's 10-meter platform at the worlds, and secured a ticket to the Paris Olympics next year as one of 12 finalists in the event.
The highlight of Kim's final came in his third dive. He executed a picture-perfect backward 3 1/2 somersault pike to earn 97.20 points, which ended up being the second-highest score by anyone in the final. He wasn't able to match that score in his other attempts, and the 21-year-old said he wants to be more consistent in the future.
"Having competed alongside some of the best divers in the world, I could see how much more work I had to do," Kim said. "I want to work on some of the basics and minimize mistakes, so I can put up some high scores like I did at the worlds."
Kim said one notable improvement he made for this year's worlds came from the mental side. He said he was often a nervous wreck at earlier world championships and at his Olympic debut in Tokyo two years ago, but he was far more collected and poised this time.
"I had some bad memories from past competitions, but I feel like I was able to erase them this year," Kim said with a smile. "I think I've definitely matured as an athlete."
A pair of freestyle swimmers, Lee Ho-joon and Kim Woo-min, also spoke about addressing their weaknesses ahead of the Asian Games.
"I felt I had to be faster on the back end of my races," said Kim, who broke an 11-year-old national record in the men's 800m freestyle by finishing in 7:47.69 at the worlds. He also shattered his personal best times twice en route to finishing a career-high fifth in the men's 400m freestyle.
"I am confident I can compete in the early portion of the races, and I will try to stay more consistent throughout so that I can keep breaking records," Kim added.
Lee, who finished sixth in the men's 200m freestyle, said he wanted to improve his start and underwater dolphin kicks.
"I think I had such good results at the worlds because I kept working on my weaknesses," said Lee, who was also part of the men's 4x200m freestyle relay team that set a new national record at 7:04.07. "I will keep putting in the work and bring home good results from the Asian Games."
Source: Yonhap News Agency