Then & Now: Hwang Dae-heon
Korean short track star and Youth Olympic Games (YOG) gold medallist Hwang Dae-heon will be looking to make a big impression on home ice at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 – just as he did two years ago in Lillehammer.
Korean short track speed skater Hwang Dae-heon arrived in Norway for the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 on the back of a disappointing performance at the previous month’s World Junior Championships in Bulgaria. With errors costing him penalties in each of his individual events, the then 16-year-old left Sofia with a solitary silver medal from the 3,000m relay and was eager to make amends in Lillehammer.
After easing his way through to the 1,000m final, he found himself up against two skaters who had enjoyed far better fortunes at the World Junior Championships – China’s Ma Wei, who had made the podium in the 1,000m and 1,500m, and Hungary’s 500m silver medallist Liu Shaoang. This time, however, it was Hwang who came out on top, demonstrating his technical nous in a superb race to overtake Ma in the closing stages and claim the YOG title.
Two days later, he looked set to add another YOG medal in the 500m, but a slip on the final corner saw him drop out of the lead, with a penalty also costing him the bronze medal. But having shone in the 1,000m, it was clear that Hwang had buried the demons of Sofia and established himself as one to watch on the short track circuit.
Just nine months after being crowned 1,000m YOG champion in Lillehammer, Hwang was starring on the senior circuit by setting a 1,000m world record of 1 minute 20.875 seconds in the quarter-final repechage of the ISU World Cup event in Salt Lake City, USA. He went on to secure his first World Cup podium – placing second behind Korean team-mate Lim Kyoungwon – and then followed that up with further silver medals in the 500m and 1,000m in Dresden, Germany, in February 2017.
He ended the 2016/17 season by claiming his first World Cup victory in the 1,000m in Minsk, beating Olympic bronze medallist Sjinkie Knegt in the process, and finishing fourth in the overall standings. The 2017/18 season has now seen him emerge as a genuine force in short track speed skating, with eight podium finishes – and two victories – helping him clinch the overall 1,500m title and finish third overall in the 1,000m and fourth in the 500m.
After such an impressive season, Hwang is now eagerly awaiting his chance to shine on home ice at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.