‘New Marine Boy’ Hwang Sun-woo (20, Gangwon Provincial Office) will face off against fated rival and defending champion David Popovic (18, Romania).
Hwang will compete in the final of the men’s 200-meter freestyle at the 2023 International Swimming Federation Fukuoka World Championships on Friday afternoon at Fukuoka Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall in Fukuoka, Japan.
After finishing the previous day’s semifinals in third place overall, Hwang will start in lane 3, while Popovic, last year’s world champion in this event, will start in lane 4 after finishing first in the semifinals.
Hwang will attempt to become the first South Korean to win a World Championships gold medal in the long course (50 meters) in 12 years since Park Tae-hwan.
Hwang and Popovic will meet for the first time in a year as they are the young “two-headed horse” of the 200-meter freestyle and have been friends at international competitions.
In last year’s 200m freestyle final in Budapest, Popovic took gold in 1:43.21, while Hwang had to settle for silver after setting a new Korean record of 1:44.47.
Popovic then went one better in the 200-meter freestyle at the European Championships with a personal best of 1:42.97.
Based on the best times alone, Popovic is currently the fastest 200m freestyle swimmer in the world.
Hwang’s 1:44.61 in Gwangju last month, the world’s fastest time this season, is still more than a second behind Popovic’s personal best.
However, if Hwang breaks the 1:44 barrier and enters the 43s, he will be in contention.
The key will be the early races.
In the morning heats of the 200-meter freestyle on Thursday, Hwang failed to set the pace early and finished 13th, barely qualifying for the semifinals.
In the afternoon semifinals, he punched his ticket to the final with an early first-place backstroke.
In the final, he didn’t have to think about pacing, he just had to give it his all.
Racing side-by-side with Popovic in the final is also a variable.
“The outermost lanes, like 1 and 8, are more comfortable for me because I can focus on my own race,” Hwang said, but it’s always better to have a competitor right next to you to keep you in check until the end. 스포츠토토