Hwang Sunwoo

View Current photo via Courtesy of Jack Spitser

Hwang Sun-woo is a competitive swimmer who represents South Korea internationally. He is a 2x world champion, 2020 Olympian and was South Korea’s Flagbearer at those Games.

Hwang first made headlines in October 2020, when he posted impressive times of 48.51 in the 100 free and 1:46.31 in the 200 free at just the age of 17. He continued his improvement curve just a month later, breaking legendary countryman Park Tae Hwan’s 100 free national record in 48.25.

Just the next day, Hwang swam a 1:45.92 in the 200 free, breaking the world junior record as well as making him faster than swimming legend Michael Phelps was in the event at age 17. But Hwang was just getting started.

2021 Korean National Trials

At his countries Olympic Trials, Hwang qualified for his first Olympics at age 18 in the 50, 100, and 200 free. In the 100 free, he clocked a 48.04, re-breaking his own national record. Similarly in the 200, he broke his own world junior record once again, clocking a 1:44.96.

2020 Olympic Games

In Tokyo, Hwang started things off in the 200 free, where he blasted another personal best in the prelims, stopping the clock at 1:44.62 to re-break the world junior record for the third time in under a year. Sunwoo swam a gutsy swim in the final, taking it out in 49 and flipping first at the 150, but wasn’t able to hold on and ultimately finished in 7th place at 1:45.26.

Sunwoo was back in the 100 free the next session, going a PB of 47.97 to break a Korean record in prelims, then exploding for a 47.56 in semi-finals, moving him on to the final with his first-ever Asian record. In the final, Sunwoo wound up 5th, clocking 47.82.

2021 Short Course World Championships

In his first international meet following the Olympic Games, Hwang won his first piece of international hardware. In the 200 freestyle, he swam a perfect race to touch first by just .03 in a time of 1:41.60. He also competed in the 100 free, finishing 6th in the final and breaking South Korean records in both semi-final (46.46) and final (46.34).

2022 World Championships

In Budapest, Hwang started in the 200 free, where he moved through prelims and semis before dropping a PB in the final. He clocked a 1:44.47 to not only go his best time but earn silver behind fellow teenage star David Popovici.

2022 Short Course World Championships

In Melbourne, after missing the final of the 100 free, Hwang barely made it into the final of the 200 free, getting 8th in prelims just .1 ahead of 9th place. It was later revealed that Hwang had broken his finger on the finish of that prelims race. However, out of lane 8 that same night, Hwang not only defended his short course title in the 200 free, but he dominated the field, winning by over 1 second in a time of 1:39.72, making him the 2nd fastest performer in history.

2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)

Hwang took things easy in prelims with a 1:46.69 to tie for 13th. He didn’t leave qualifying for finals up to chance using a field-leading 23.93 front 50 to take him to a strong 1:45.07 for 3rd in semis. In the finals, Hwang took a more moderated approach to his 200. While Popovici was out 23.74, Hwang sat back in 2nd with a 24.23. His slight moderation showed on the back half as he kept all three of his splits under 27 seconds across the back 150. The only three to do so were the three medalists. Hwang was closed on down the stretch by the British duo of Matt Richards and Tom Dean who took Gold and Silver respectively. The bright spot of Hwang’s bronze was the fact that his 1:44.42 marked a new PB. 

In the 100 free, Hwang was a mere 48.2 in prelims and missed the final by .02 with a 48.08.  According to The Korea Times, the timing of Hwang’s events came into play with his results. The Olympian arrived back at his hotel well past midnight after the medal ceremony and subsequent doping test post-200m free and was back in the water the following morning for the 100m free heats. He was ‘visibly exhausted, barely able to stay on his feet after his morning race’.

On the relay, Hwang appeared to be similarly tired. He was 1:46.35 leading off the 800 free relay. That squad broke the South Korean record. If Hwang had been at his best, the relay could have been 4th, just .05 back of a medal. The prospect of the South Korean 800 free relay still looks bright though, as the squat assembled in Fukuoka has the potential to break 7:02 as both Kim Woomin and Lee Hojoon split 1:44s on the relay and Yang Jaehoon was 1:47 in prelims. Hwang wrapped his meet with a 48.23 anchor on the 400 medley relay.

International Medals

Place Event Year Meet
Gold 200 Free 2024 Olympic Games
Silver 800 Freestyle Relay 2024 World Championships
Silver 200 Free 2022 World Championships
Gold 200 Free 2021 Short Course World Championships
Gold 200 Free 2022 Short Course World Championships

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
lcm 100 Free 47.97 07/27/21 2020 Olympic Games
Tokyo, Japan
lcm 200 Free 1:44.42 07/25/23 2032 World Aquatics Championships
Fukuoka, Japan
scm 100 Free 46.34 12/21/21 2021 Short Course World Championships
Abu Dhabi, UAE
scm 200 Free 1:39:72 12/18/22 2022 Short Course World Championships
Melbourne, Australia
Hwang Sunwoo (photo: Jack Spitser) Hwang Sunwoo (photo: Jack Spitser) SUNWOO HWANG 2022 FINA World Swimming Championships Budapest Budapest, Duna Arena 06/19/22 Photo Fabio Cetti Sunwoo HWANG 2022 FINA World Swimming Championships Budapest Budapest, Duna Arena 06/19/22 Photo Fabio Cetti Sunwoo Hwang 2022 FINA World Swimming Championships Budapest Budapest, Duna Arena 06/19/22 Photo Fabio Cetti Sunwoo HWANG 2022 FINA World Swimming Championships Budapest Budapest, Duna Arena 06/19/22 Photo Fabio Cetti