It’s a day when Korean swimming made history. Led by the golden generation of South Korean swimming, the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay team won its first team gold medal at an international event, beating heavy favorites China. They also broke the Asian record held by Japan (7:02.26).
The South Korean team of Hwang Sun-woo (20-Gangwon Provincial Government), Kim Woo-min (22-Gangwon Provincial Government), Lee Ho-joon (22-Daegu Metropolitan City) and Yang Jae-hoon (25-Gangwon Provincial Government) touched the touchpad in 7:01.73 in the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay final at the Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center pool in Hangzhou, China on Friday.
Yang Jae-hoon was the first swimmer to round the 300-meter mark after an early “three-way battle” between China and South Korea, with Lee Ho-joon coming in second. After taking a break with Hwang Sun-woo in the preliminaries, Lee used his tireless stamina to cut through the water and keep the gap between himself and the Chinese. Korean swimming sensation Hwang Sun-woo was the first to cross the line at the 700-meter mark, trailing the Chinese by 3.09 seconds.
Hosts China (Wang Shun, New Guangsheng, Yang Haoyu, Fan Zhanle) were hoping to regain the top spot for the first time in 13 years since Guangzhou 2010, but fell behind South Korea in 7:03.40.
After winning bronze in the men’s 100m freestyle final in 48.04, Hwang Sun-woo said he would “make up for it in other events” and he did just that a day later.
Earlier in the day, in the men’s 50m freestyle final, Ji Yoo-chan (21-Daegu Metropolitan Government) won the first gold medal for South Korean swimming in 21.72 seconds.
“One day, the opportunity will surely come,” said Ji, who cut through the water with an Akbari-like grit and smiled as he held up his index finger after checking his time. It had been 21 years since a South Korean swimmer had won the men’s 50m freestyle at an Asian Games since 2002 in Busan.
After breaking both the meet record (21.84) and the Korean record (22.16) in the preliminaries, Ji Yoo-chan lowered his time by another 0.12 seconds in the final. Prior to this meet, Ji’s personal best in the 50-meter freestyle was 22.17.
Fan Zhanle, who set an Asian record of 46.97 in the 100-meter freestyle the day before, finished third in 21.92, 0.20 seconds slower than Ji Yuchan.
“I’m happy to break China’s monopoly on gold medals at the Games,” Ji told reporters after the race, “This is the first gold medal for the 안전놀이터 swim team, so I hope to win more medals in the future.” An emotional Ji Yoo-chan took to the podium, waving to her teammates and the South Korean crowd, who were cheering her on with Korean flags.
South Korean women’s swimming sensation Kim Seo-young (29, North Gyeongsang Province) finished third in the women’s 200-meter individual medley final in 2 minutes, 10.36 seconds. Kim, who won gold at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, added a bronze medal to her tally at the Games.