After Breaking Finger in Prelims, Hwang Sunwoo Overcomes Pain to Defend 200 FR Title


Hwang Sunwoo broke his finger at the finish during Sunday morning’s 200 freestyle prelims, where he barely snuck into the final as the eighth qualifier, but the 19-year-old South Korean battled through the pain to defend his Short Course Worlds title with a gold medal out of lane 8.

Hwang reached the wall in 1:39.72, lowering the previous Championship record set by Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys in 2018. He won by more than a second over 18-year-old Romanian star David Popovici and defending Olympic champion Tom Dean of Great Britain.

“It was a really good result,” Hwang said. “In the morning semifinals, I broke my finger (at the finish).

“I am very happy with the race today,” he added. “I was really, really in pain today but it wasn’t a problem in the race tonight.”


  • World Record: 1:39.37 – Paul Biedermann (GER), 2009
  • World Junior Record: 1:40.65 – Matt Sates (RSA), 2021
  • Championship Record: 1:40.95 – Danas Rapsys (LTU), 2018
  • 2021 Champion: 1:41.60, Hwang Sunwoo (KOR)


  1. GOLD: Hwang Sunwoo (South Korea) – 1:39.72 (Championship Record)
  2. SILVER: David Popovici (Romania) – 1:40.79
  3. BRONZE: Tom Dean (Great Britain) – 1:40.86
  4. Drew Kibler (United States) – 1:41.44
  5. Thomas Neill (Australia) – 1:41.55
  6. Maxime Grousset (France) – 1:41.56
  7. Danas Rapsys (Lithuania) – 1:41.74
  8. Katsuhiro Matsumoto (Japan) – 1:41.91

Hwang also shattered his own Asian record by more than a second. Before this week’s meet, the mark stood at 1:41.03 swam by Park Tae-hwan in 2016. Hwang took the record under 1:41 with a 1:40.99 relay leadoff before bringing it under 1:40 with his 200 free victory.

Hwang split 48.88 at the midway point, where he was second in the field behind Dean, the top qualifier in prelims. Hwang then turned on the jets and came home in 50.84, pulling into the lead by a huge margin.

“I racing someone that I could not see,” Dean said after his third-place finish.

Popovici narrowly missed the World Junior Record of 1:40.65, taking second in 1:40.79. He was the fastest swimmer in the field on the second half, where he split a 51.67. Popovici beat Hwang with a new World Junior Record during their long-course 200 free showdown in Budapest this summer.

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Hwangs lover
5 months ago

That’s why he’s the goat, the MVP, the best OAT

Reply to  ooo
5 months ago

Classic American downplaying a foreign athlete’s achievements.

homey looking skinny
5 months ago

will dean win anything ever again?

5 months ago

1:43.5 @2024

5 months ago

I have swam with a broken finger and it friggin stinks. Mad respect!

5 months ago

Likely the first ever to go 1:39 with a broken finger what a legend

5 months ago

Icing on the cake of an incredible swim, which is just of Agnel’s textile record of 1:39.70 from 2012, which is an indicator of the form he must be in.

It was hilarious watching him hug that green lane rope to deny Popovici the draft though, I’m looming forward to more great battles between those two youngsters

5 months ago

Hmm… I’m beginning to formulate a theory about this. I think the added adrenaline from a relatively minor injury (in the grand scheme of things, at least) might actually contribute to better performance. I’ve got a sample size of two so far: Sunwoo and myself. I had the best meet of my life after spraining my thumb touching the wall during a taper set in the final practice before we travelled to the meet. PBs in all 3 events lol

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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