When Korea Swimming set the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay team a goal of winning gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games, the members wondered if it was possible.

But as they trained together, they became convinced that they could “set an Asian record and win the Asian Games.”

After winning Korea’s first ever team title at the Hangzhou Asian Games, Hwang Sun-woo (20), Kim Woo-min (22), Yang Jae-hoon (25, Gangwon-do) and Lee Ho-joon (22, Daegu Metropolitan City) will now set their sights on the world and Olympic stages.

The South Korean team won the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay final in an Asian record time of 7:01.73 at the Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Swimming Pool in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, on Friday.

The previous record was 7:02.26, set by Japan at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.

South Korea’s record-breaking performance was made all the more valuable because it was before regulations were put in place on the shape and material of the swimsuits that produced the record.

When the Asian Games men’s 800-meter freestyle relay champions met after the awards ceremony, they reflected on the past with golden smiles.

“We shaved nearly 15 seconds off our time for the Tokyo Olympics (in 2021),” said Hwang Sun-woo. “Our men’s 800-meter freestyle relay team will move forward together with an eye on the Olympics and the World Championships.”

At the Tokyo Olympics, Hwang Sun-woo, Kim Woo-min, Lee Ho-joon and Lee Yoo-yeon finished 13th in 7:15.03.

In two years, they shaved 13.30 seconds off the Korean record.

It was even more encouraging to see the team improve their times at major championships, including the 2022 World Championships in Budapest (7:06.93-6th) and the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka (7:04.07-6th).

Add to that a gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games, which he has set as his most important goal for 2023.

“I am grateful to the people who supported me until late at night,” said Hwang Sun-woo, who was the final swimmer, “I was happy and disappointed to win bronze (48.04) in the 100-meter freestyle yesterday (24), but I am even happier to win today with my teammates and an Asian record. I am satisfied that the Korean swimming team has gained momentum.”

Lee Ho-joon added: “This is a moment the four of us have been dreaming of. Our hard work has paid off,” said Lee.

Before the Games, Hwang Sun-woo and Lee Ho-joon had told each other every chance they got, “Stay tuned for the 800-meter freestyle relay. Our goal is to break not only the Korean record but also the Asian record.”

Hwang Sun-woo said, “We reduced our time from 7:15 to 7:01,” adding, “I want to share the joy with my teammates today.”

With their team victory under their belts, they will now look to add to their medal tally in the individual events.

Hwang Sun-woo and Lee Ho-joon will attempt to win a medal together in the men’s 200-meter freestyle on Sunday.

Kim Woo-min, who will try to become the first Korean swimmer to win four Asian Games titles, will continue his golden run with the 1,500-meter freestyle on Saturday, the 800-meter freestyle on Sunday and the 400-meter freestyle on Monday.

“It’s a good start. I can do the rest of the events without any pressure,” he said, adding, “I feel confident.” 스포츠토토

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