Republic of Korea teenage sensation Hwang Sun-woo storms into record books

The 17-year-old became the fastest junior swimmer in the world, clocking 1.45:92 in the men’s 200m freestyle.

Picture by (c) Korea Swimming Federation

Republic of Korea's Hwang Sun-woo has stormed his way into the record books after putting on a scintillating performance at the 2020 Korean National Team Trials. The 17-year-old not only won both events he competed in (the men’s 100m and 200m freestyle), but also created history in the process.

Hwang's impressive form over the past two years meant that expectations leading up to the event were high, but he brushed aside any doubt as he shortened his 200m freestyle record by almost six seconds.

Remarkably, it also took the prodigious talent only a month to rewrite his personal best.

In a national competition held in October, Hwang finished with two personal bests: 48.51 in the men’s 100m freestyle and 1:46.31 in the 200m freestyle, and at November's National Team Trials his performances improved once again. He established new national records in the 100m as well as becoming the fastest junior swimmer in the world in the 200m freestyle - with new personal bests in both events.

Hwang’s record of 48.25 in the 100m freestyle broke the previous national record of 48.42, set by Olympic medallist Park Tae-hwan six years ago.

But what is more outstanding would be his result in the 200m freestyle. Although his record of 1:45.92 fell slightly short of the current national record of 1:44.80 - also set by Park - Hwang ranked as the seventh fastest man in Asia of all-time, either senior or junior.

Faster than Phelps

When narrowed down to his age level, (17-18 years), Hwang’s record would be even more exceptional as he beat Michael Phelps’ record when he was the same age.

After Phelps set his record of 1.45:99 to become the fastest athlete in the 17-18 age category back in 2003, no-one had managed to beat it - but Hwang, who was born in the same year when an 18-year-old Phelps created history - became the first swimmer to beat that record.

Moreover, Hwang is not far from being the first FINA record holder in Korean history. The Korea Swimming Federation (KSF) has begun the process of formalising the record with FINA after Hwang beat the current world junior record of 1.46:13 set by Australia's Elijah Winnington.

After such a successful performance at the National Team Trials, Hwang told the KSF that he had a bigger goal for the Olympics next year.

"Last year my goal was to compete at Tokyo 2020,” Hwang explained, “but now it is changed to go further, like semi-finals, or the final.”

With greater and clearer motivation for the Olympics, it will be exciting to see how this young record-breaker will perform in Tokyo.