Hwang Sun-woo was selected as one of South Korea’s flag-bearers for the 2020 Olympics that are scheduled to begin in less than a week. The teen swimmer will carry the flag for the men’s team while volleyball player Kim Yeon-koung will carry it on the women’s side.
Hwang is the first swimmer in the country’s history to lead the team at the opening ceremony.
Hwang looks to be the country’s swimmer that is most likely to win a medal at the Games. At the Korean National Trials in May, he broke his own World Junior Record in the 200 free, going a 1:44.96. He dropped 0.96 seconds from his previous time to be the first teenager this year to go sub-1:45. This time makes him the fifth-fastest swimmer going into the 2020 Olympic Games. He sits behind Duncan Scott, Tom Dean, Katsuhiro Matsumoto, and Martin Malyutin and only one second separates the top 8 swimmers. It will be a tight race for the gold medal.
South Korea’s decision to name Hwang as a flag-bearer could indicate the high expectations they have for him. As the country’s highest-ranked swimmer, he is already a team favorite. In previous years, the country has selected athletes who have seen success in international competition. In 2016, fencer Gu Bon-gil led the team in the opening ceremony. He is a three-time world champion, seven-time team Asian champion, six-time individual Asian champion, and a 2012 London Olympic champion.
The country looks forward to bringing home swimming medals after coming home empty-handed in 2016. Former Olympic champion Park Tae Hwan failed to perform after coming back from a doping suspension. He was the last swimmer to win medals at the Olympic games, earning two silver medals in London.
In 2016, South Korea picked up 21 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The country dominated the field in archery, bringing home gold medals in all four of the events. The women and men both won the individual and team titles.
The Tokyo Olympics is the first time that countries have been allowed to nominate two athletes – one female and one male – to carry the flag in the parade. Until now, every country has been allowed one flag-bearer, although in 1980 Australia selected two athletes to do the job. Swimmer Max Metzker co-carried the flag with track and field athlete Denise Robertson-Boyd to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Since then, no other country has selected two athletes to lead the team during the opening ceremony.
There are now 17 swimmers selected as flag-bearers for the opening ceremonies:
- Amel Melih, Algeria
- Cate Campbell, Australia
- Gabriel Castillo, Bolivia
- Karen Torrez, Bolivia
- Elinah Phillip, British Virgin Islands
- Celina Marquez, El Salvador
- Julio Horrego, Honduras
- Laszlo Cseh, Hungary
- Yakov Toumarkin, Israel
- Andrew Chetcuti, Malta
- Gaurika Singh, Nepal
- Paweł Korzeniowski, Poland
- Robert Glinta, Romania
- Arianna Valloni, San Marino
- Hwang Sun-Woo, South Korea
- Mireia Belmonte, Spain
- Issa Al-Adawi, Oman
- Felicity Passon, Seychelles