When South Korean swimmer Hwang Sun-woo competes in his main event, the men's 200-meter freestyle, at the Asian Games here next week, he won't just be racing against his competitors. The event for Hwang will also be a race against history.
Hwang holds the South Korean national record in the 200m freestyle at 1:44.42, which netted him the bronze medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in July. The time is just 0.03 second shy of the Asian record held by Sun Yang, a native of the Asian Games host city, Hangzhou.
After arriving in Hangzhou on Thursday afternoon, Hwang said his biggest goal at the competition is to improve his record, which in turn should help put him on the podium.
"Sun Yang made a significant mark in swimming," Hwang said of the Chinese star who has won three Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles but who is currently serving a suspension over an anti-doping rule violation. "I know I am just 0.03 second shy of his Asian record. I'd love to break that record and also reach the top of the podium. If I can accomplish both, this would really be a perfect Asian Games for me."
When he is not chasing the ghost of Sun, Hwang will have a physical rival in freestyle events, in the form of another Chinese swimmer, Pan Zhanle.
Hwang has had the edge over Pan in the 200m freestyle in their budding rivalry, but Pan, 19, has been better than Hwang in the 100m freestyle.
Pan broke Hwang's Asian record in that distance with a time of 47.22 seconds in May this year.
"We have both been performing well in the 100m and 200m, and we seem to have a pretty good rivalry going on," Hwang said. "If we can keep pushing each other in friendly battles, I think you will see some good records in the pool."
Hwang is also set to compete in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay, where he and his three teammates, Kim Woo-min, Lee Ho-joon and Yang Jae-hoon, have been breaking national records at an impressive rate.
Even with Hwang under the weather, the quartet broke their own Korean record twice en route to a sixth place finish at this year's world championships, with a time of 7:04.07.
"All four of us have been putting up such great times that you couldn't have imagined coming from Korean swimmers before," Hwang said. "We have high expectations for ourselves in the relay."
Source: Yonhap News Agency