With swimming world title in tow, Kim Woo-min confident he can go faster

 Korea's Kim Woo-min celebrates with his gold medal on the podium of the men's 400-meter freestyle swimming event during the 2024 World Aquatics Championships at Aspire Dome, Doha, Feb. 11. AFP-Yonhap

Korean swimmer Kim Woo-min has been improving his personal best times in the 400-meter freestyle at an impressive rate.The 22-year-old isn’t about to stop, not with the Olympics on the horizon.Kim arrived back home Monday evening from Qatar, where he won the men’s 400-meter freestyle gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships with a personal-best time of 3:42.71. He also helped Korea capture silver in the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay.In the 400-meter freestyle, Kim shaved 1.21 seconds off his previous personal best of 3:43.92, which he set while finishing fifth at the last world championships in July 2023.And the year before that in June 2022, Kim finished in sixth place in 3:45.64. Kim is nearly three seconds faster now than he was less than two years ago.His time in Doha, though, would not have been good enough for a medal at the 2023 worlds. But if he can get into the 3:41 range, Kim could sniff an Olympic medal this summer.”If I want to pursue an Olympic medal in Paris, I think I have to go even faster,” Kim told reporters gathered at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. “And there’s no reason why I can’t do it, as long as I keep putting in the work.”Kim reeled off names such as Samuel Short of Australia and Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia as the ones he’ll likely be battling for a spot on the podium in Paris.

With the Olympics just a handful of months away, many top swimmers skipped the worlds in Doha, but the men’s 400-meter freestyle was an exception. Short, the 2023 world champion, was the only notable name missing. The next three best swimmers, Hafnaoui, Lukas Martens of Germany and Guilherme Costa of Brazil, all raced in Doha.And Kim beat all of them, with Martens taking bronze and Costa finishing in fourth. Hafnaoui, the 2021 Olympic champion, didn’t even qualify for the final in Doha.In the final, Kim was on a world record pace through 300-meter and hung on to hold off Elijah Winnington of Australia by 0.15 second for the title.Kim had the final 50-meter split of 27.89 seconds, 1.22 seconds slower than Winnington, and it was only the fifth-fastest over the home stretch in the final.Kim covered the last 100m in 56.67 seconds, compared with Winnington’s 54.83 seconds.

Swimmers all have different strategies. Some may choose to conserve their energy for the late portion. Kim, on the other hand, knows just one speed in the pool, though he could be pushing his luck at the Olympics.”The race played out the way I had trained,” Kim said. “I think I have the first 300-meter covered. I just have to improve on the final 100m, and that should lead to a good time and a good ranking position.”And if Kim accomplishes that, he may even get a chance to celebrate properly in Paris.After the touching the pad first, Kim poked his head out of the water to check his position on the scoreboard, but none popped up. It wasn’t until he heard the PA announcer call out his name that he’d realized he was the champion. He raised his left index finger but tilted his head in confusion, even while his coaches on the sidelines were high-fiving each other. It was at best a muted celebration.”I panicked when my time didn’t show up on the board. But then when my name was called, I couldn’t believe it,” Kim said with a smile. “I guess I’ve saved my big celebration 안전 for the Olympics.

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