The South Korean men’s swimming team, consisting of Yang Jae-hoon, Lee Ho-joon, Kim Woo-min and Hwang Sun-woo, was the first to shoot the touchpad with a time of 7:01:73 in the men’s 800m relay final at the Hangzhou Asian Games held at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Aquatic Sports Arena in China on the 25th. South Korea’s swimming, which won the gold medal in the team event at the Asian Games for the first time ever, broke the Asian record set by Japan at the 2009 World Championships in Rome (7:02:26), and rose to the new throne of 800m relay in Asia.
Earlier, Ji Yoo-chan, who competed in the men’s 50-meter freestyle final, won the gold medal by setting a new competition record of 21.72 seconds and a new Korean record. The men’s 50-meter freestyle gold medal came 21 years after Kim Min-seok at the 2002 Busan Asian Games. Korean swimming continues its smooth medal journey with Kim Seo-young adding a bronze medal in the women’s 200m individual medley and Choi Dong-yeol adding a bronze medal in the men’s 100m breaststroke, harvesting two gold medals and two bronze medals in a day on the 25th.
Park Tae-hwan (SBS commentator), the only Olympic gold medalist in Korean swimming, won six gold medals, winning three consecutive gold medals at the 2006 Doha Asian Games and the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. However, Park’s six Asian Games gold medals were all won in individual events. In fact, Park Tae-hwan won bronze medals in the 400-meter and 800-meter relay and 800-meter medley relay at the Doha Games, silver in the 400-meter medley relay and bronze in the 400-meter and 800-meter relay competitions at the Guangzhou Games.
At that time, Korean swimming was a team that relied heavily on a genius player named Park Tae-hwan, and no matter how outstanding Park Tae-hwan, it was difficult to gain the upper hand in the competition against China and Japan, where four players showed even skills. After all, Park has never won a world championship or an Asian-level competition throughout his active career. As such, the gold medal in the team event at the Asian Games seemed an unachievable.
Even when Hwang Sun-woo appeared like a comet at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, ranking 7th in the 200m and 5th in the 100m, most sports fans agreed that “mutants” such as Park Tae-hwan appeared. That will be the case, too, because no player except Hwang Sun-woo has made the Olympic final stage. However, the appearance of a monster god named Hwang Sun-woo signaled the beginning of the Korean swimming “Renaissance,” not the emergence of mutations in Korean swimming.
South Korea finished sixth at the World Swimming Championships in Hungary last year, with the men’s national team consisting of Hwang Sun-woo, Kim Woo-min, Lee Yu-yeon and Lee Ho-joon setting a new Korean record with a time of 7:06:93 in the 800-meter relay. On top of that, Korean swimming ace Hwang Sun-woo won the silver medal in the 200-meter freestyle, setting a new Korean record of 1:44:47. It was the first time in 11 years that a Korean athlete has won a medal in the world championship since Park Tae-hwan (400m gold medal) at the 2011 Shanghai Games.
At the Fukuoka World Championships in July, Hwang once again broke the Korean record with a time of 1:44.42. Hwang Sun-woo was the first Korean to win a medal in two consecutive World Championships. In the 800m relay, Hwang Sun-woo, Kim Woo-min, Yang Jae-hoon, and Lee Ho-joon competed, advancing to the final of two consecutive tournaments for the first time ever, and finishing sixth with a time of 7:04:7 to set another Korean record.
The Korean national swimming team, which ranked sixth at the Fukuoka World Championships, where Japan and China, which dominated the 800m relay event, failed to advance to the finals, was called the “golden generation” and raised expectations for the Hangzhou Asian Games. However, South Korea was disappointed with Hwang Sun-woo’s bronze medal and Lee Ho-joon’s fourth place in the 100-meter freestyle on the 24th. On the other hand, China’s ace Pan Zanler, who competes in the 800m relay, won the gold medal in the 100-m freestyle with an Asian record of 46.97 seconds.
South Korea competed in the preliminary race with Lee Yu-yeon and Kim Gun-woo instead of Hwang Sun-woo and Lee Ho-joon, who had lost their stamina due to two 100-meter races the previous day, and advanced to the final with a time of 7:12:84. However, China also rested Panzanler and Yang Haoyu, who won 100m gold and silver medals in the preliminary race, and Japan also had difficulty putting much meaning on the preliminary record because ace Matsumoto Katsuhiro did not participate in the preliminary race.
In the final race, South Korea’s first runner Yang Jae-hoon finished second, 0.87 seconds behind China’s first runner Wang Soon, but second runner Lee Ho-joon beat New Kwang-sung to move up to first place, handing over to Kim Woo-min. Kim Woo-min, the third runner, led China by nearly two seconds as he overwhelmed the 100m silver medalist Yang Hao-yu, and the last runner, ace Hwang Sun-woo, beat Pan Zanler’s pursuit and won the first team gold medal in Asian Games history with a new Asian record of 7:01:73.
With this gold medal, South Korea will win gold medals not only Yang Jae-hoon, Lee Ho-joon, Kim Woo-min and Hwang Sun-woo, but also Lee Yu-yeon and Kim Gun-woo, who competed in the preliminary race. In addition, four runners showed even performance in the relay event, which was exclusive to Japan and China, and won the title with a new Asian record. South Korea’s mid- to long-distance ace Kim Woo-min will compete in the 1,500m freestyle on the 26th to challenge for the multi-gwan king.