Monstrous swimmer Hwang Sun-woo, who is only a high school junior, came to rise during the National Swimming Competition - the first nationwide contest in this year's season that was held belatedly in October in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The young athlete ranked first in the 200-meter free (1:46:31) and 400-meter freestyle relay (3:26:58) events on Oct. 14. The next day, he conquered the 100-meter free (00:48:51) event while leading Seoul Physical Education High School to win the 800-meter freestyle relay (7:32:54) event. Playing a key role in his school's triumph in the 400-meter medley relay (3:43:63) match on Oct. 16, he took hold of as many as five titles in this year's national competition.
Even with four athletes including South Korea's top female swimmer Kim Seo-yeong being quintuple medalists, what makes Hwang stand out is that this young high school swimmer made a faster record than the elder ones who are more strongly built than he is. In particular, Hwang's record in the 100-meter free is only 0.09 seconds behind Marine Boy Park Tae-hwan’s South Korean record of 00:48:42 made in 2014.
“Swimming pool and arenas closed down due to the pandemic, which automatically led to cancellations of competitions,” Hwang said. “However, I took it as an opportunity to enhance physical strength.” Being as tall as 186 centimeters, he used to have a somewhat slim build only weighing 68 kilograms last year. Gaining some weight to be around 72 kilograms this year, he got his muscles stronger to boost strength and speed. Over the recent few years, he has shown significant improvements in the 100-meter free from 00:51:53 in 2018 when he was a middle school senior through 00:50:28 last year to 00:48:51 this year.
Lee Byeong-ho, the head coach of Seoul Physical Education High School’s athletes, highly commended that Hwang has a wing span as long as 193 centimeters and masters in reading water flows, adding that arm movement determines 70 to 80 percent of swimming performance. “Hwang has the guts to stay calm at all times and does his 100 percent,” Lee said. It is only a matter of time for Hwang to surpass Park Tae-hwan’s record.”
A series of his record-making results makes his dreams bigger. Although he last year only dreamed of joining the Olympic Games, Hwang now has a higher goal of being one of the eight final partakers in his specialty events – the 100-meter and 200-meter free. Hwang is acclaimed as a young swimmer who will most likely be the next Park Tae-hwan among the most prospective athletes. The much-awaited rising star thrills the South Korean swimming world.
Bae-Jung Kim firstname.lastname@example.org