S. Korean Hwang Sun-woo defends 200m freestyle title at short course worlds

December 19, 2022

South Korean teen swimming sensation Hwang Sun-woo captured his second straight world short course title in the men’s 200-meter freestyle on Sunday, setting both the Asian record and the competition record in the process.

Hwang, 19, touched the pad first in the 200m free final of the FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, in a time of 1:39.72.

He held off David Popovici of Romania by 1.07 seconds. Tom Dean of Britain finished another 0.07 second back in third place.

The short course competition is held over a 25m pool, instead of the Olympic-standard 50m pool.

Popovici won the 200m freestyle gold medal at the long course worlds earlier this year over Hwang, while Dean is the reigning Olympic champion in the 200m freestyle.

In the shorter pool, however, Hwang got the better of both, and came up only 0.35 second shy of the world record time of 1:39.37, set by Paul Biedermann of Germany in 2009 at the height of technological doping powered by full-body suits.

Hwang almost didn’t make it to the final. He sprained his right middle finger while touching the pad during the heats, and was the last qualifier with the eighth-fastest time at 1:42.44, just 0.10 second ahead of American Kieran Smith. Hwang said the finger had swelled and hurt so much that he took a cortisone shot to compete in the final.

Hwang reached the 25m point first, but Popovici moved ahead of him at the 50m mark. Hwang moved back into the lead after 75m, before Dean caught him at the halfway point. Hwang reclaimed his lead at the 125m point and never relinquished it.

“I was fortunate to have qualified for the final, after hurting my finger in the heats. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity and I am glad I competed through pain,” Hwang said. “I fed off the energy of my fans and I am happy to have rewarded them with this result. I can’t even describe how thrilled I am to have defended my title and set the Asian record.”