Woo Sang-hyeok got on the plane to face a new challenge. The 26-year-old athlete will try to win a gold medal in the men's high jump at the 2022 World Athletics Outdoor Championships, which will commence in Eugene, Oregon, the U.S. on July 15. If Woo, who took first place in the World Athletics Indoor Championships held in March, wins again this time, he will win both outdoor and indoor athletics championships in the same year for the first time in 29 years since ‘legend’ Javier Sotomayor Sanabria of Cuba in 1993. Although the total number of winners in both competitions is four, Sotomayor is the only one to win the title simultaneously in the same year.
From 1987 to 2003, World Athletics hosted the indoor and outdoor world athletics championships in the same year, but since 2004, WA has alternately held indoor championships in even-numbered years and outdoor championships in odd-numbered years. Accordingly, the outdoor competition, which was originally supposed to be held last year, was postponed with the delay of the Tokyo Olympics for one year, laying the ground for a potential logging of an “unusual record.”
Leaving the departure hall at Incheon International Airport on Thursday, Woo said, “I will make my competitors feel that ‘I am a mountain that cannot be conquered.’” Last year's Tokyo Olympic gold medalists Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy also will take part in this competition, but there was no sign of anxiousness in Woo Sang-hyeok. He said, "(In other competitions) I beat both Barshim and Tamberi, so I’m not so concerned. I want to focus on my game and watch them get distracted because of me."
As the Korean record holder of 2.35 meter, Woo aims to break the outdoor world record of 2.34 meter (Ilya Ivanyuk, Russia) this season and take the top spot. "I always want the best title. I want to put my name on the map by making history in athletics,” Woo said. “To win the upcoming championship, the jump will have to be close to 2.4 meter.” His best outdoor record of this season is 2.33 meter.
Woo plans to lose 1 to 2 kilograms more from his current weight (67 kg) to increase efficiency when jumping. Woo, who had been weighing 82-83 kilograms during field training in the U.S. in December last year, went on a systematic diet, and the weight shedding helped him claim the top spot at the indoor athletic championships in March with a weight of 68 kilograms. In other words, his best performance was obtained when training and diet were combined. Woo will play the preliminary round on July 16 and the final on July 19. “I feel the excitement more than the pressure. In fact, even as I speak, I am itching to compete by jumping over the bar,” he said. “I’m sure the stadium will be full of spectators, so I will enjoy the atmosphere.”