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S. Korea finishes swimming world championships with record 5 medals

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 19, 2024 - 10:10

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Yang Jae-hoon, Kim Woo-min, Hwang Sun-woo and Lee Ho-joon (left to right) pose with their silver medals after finishing second in the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the World Aquatics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha on Friday. Yang Jae-hoon, Kim Woo-min, Hwang Sun-woo and Lee Ho-joon (left to right) pose with their silver medals after finishing second in the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the World Aquatics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha on Friday.

South Korea has finished the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Qatar with a record five medals, nearly matching the total it had won at all previous competitions combined.

With three medals from swimming and two more from diving, South Korean athletes set themselves up nicely for the Paris Olympics this summer.

Prior to the Feb. 2-19 competition in Doha, South Korea had won six medals at all previous world championships. In collecting a handful of medals in Qatar, South Korean athletes also made history.

For the first time, South Korea won multiple gold medals at a single world championship.

Kim Woo-min delivered the first gold medal for the country with his men's 400-meter freestyle title, with a personal-best time of 3:42.71. Kim became the first South Korean swimmer to win a world title since Park Tae-hwan, who has 2007 and 2011 world titles in the 400m freestyle to his credit.

Hwang Sun-woo followed Kim with the men's 200m freestyle gold medal in Doha with 1:44.75. He became the first South Korean to win a medal at three consecutive world championships, having earlier won silver and bronze in the 200m.

Hwang and Kim then helped South Korea to the silver medal in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay. With a time of 7:01.94, South Korea finished one-tenth of a second behind China for the gold. It was South Korea's first medal in any relay event in the world championships.

The relay medal gave Hwang four world championship medals for his career, more than any South Korean swimmer. He broke the tie with Park, who also won bronze in the 200m freestyle in 2007 in addition to his two 400m titles.

One caveat for these performances is that some of the top swimmers skipped the Doha event to focus on preparing for the Olympics. In the 200m freestyle, for instance, the two swimmers that finished ahead of Hwang at last year's world championships, Matthew Richards and Tom Dean of Britain, did not compete. In the relay, Australia, the 2023 bronze medal-winning team, did not participate. Britain and the United States, gold and silver medalists from last year, did not have their "A" teams in Doha.

But South Korean swimmers still posted strong times in the absence of their rivals. These medals still represented a step in the right direction for the young athletes with potential for more glory in the future. Hwang is still just 20 years old and Kim is 22.

On the relay team, Yang Jae-hoon, who only raced in the final, is the elder statesman at 25. Lee Yoo-yeon, who competed in the heats, is 23, and Lee Ho-joon celebrated his 23rd birthday last week.

Before the swimming races began, South Korea picked up two medals in diving.

Kim Su-ji grabbed bronze in the women's 3m springboard. Then she partnered with Yi Jae-gyeong for bronze in the mixed 3m synchronized event. Kim became the first South Korean diver to win multiple medals at a single world championship.

Divers who did not make the podium still managed to grab spots at the Paris Olympics.

In artistic swimming, Lee Ri-young and Hur Yoon-seo finished 10th in both the duet technical and duet free events, and qualified for the duet competition in Paris. They will be the first South Korean tandem to perform at an Olympics in 12 years. (Yonhap)