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Yoo Seung-hyun Sets New Korean Record in 200-Meter Breaststroke

Yoo Seung-hyun Sets New Korean Record in 200-Meter Breaststroke

Posted July. 30, 2005 03:06,   


“I am so grateful for everything, mom. I love you so much. Seung-hyun.”

Yoo Seung-hyun (22, a senior at Korea National Sport University), who went to the 11th FINA World Swimming Championship in Montreal, sent the same message six times to Lee Gang-soon (53), his mother, with his match not long away. He becomes full of energy whenever he thinks of his mother. His mother has raised him by herself for 13 years.

On July 29, Yoo competed in a preliminary heat of the 200-meter breaststroke for the third group, held at the outdoor pool at Jean-Drapeau Park in Montreal, Canada. He finished with a time of 2:17:89, setting a new Korean record after Yoon Joo-il’s 2:18:27 in 1992.

Yoo Seung-hyun registered his first Korean record in the 100-meter breast on the first day of the championship. Now he has Korean records in the two games he competed. The record in the 200-meter breaststroke is the sixth Korean record during five days of the event.

From the start, Yoo was determined to win. Among the swimmers in the preliminary event, he was the only one to start in the wind-up position instead of the grab start. In the wind-up position, you bend down your body and swing your arms. The risk of being disqualified is greater, but the swimmer can get a head start. For Yoo, it worked well.

After setting a new Korean record, he opened his mouth and what came out first was not something unexpected for him: “I want to share the joy of setting two new records with my mother. She worked hard to support me.”

Yoo loves his mother so dearly and has good reason to.

In 1992, he participated in the National Youth Athletic Competition in Daegu. His father was killed in a car accident when he was on his way to Daegu to cheer his son. Afterwards, Yoo’s mother had to sell swimming gear at swimming pools to raise her son.

Since his fifth year in elementary school, he was a short-distance freestyler. In 2002, when he entered university, he fell into a slump and was on the verge of being excluded from the national team. For “survival,” he chose to be a breaststroker, quite a rarity in Korea. It had been nine years since he swam as a breaststroker back in his fourth year in elementary school. But he was ranked second in Korea and went to the Asian Games at Busan. Since then, he was able to secure his position as a breaststroker.

On the same day, Michael Phelps (20, USA) won the individual 200-meter medley with a time of 1:56:68, capturing three gold medals. Otylia Jedrzejczak (22, Poland), a 200-meter women’s butterfly gold medalist in the Athens Olympic Games, won the individual 200-meter medley final with a time of 2:05:61, a new world record.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com