‘Smile Jumper’ Woo Sang-hyuk (27-Yongin City Hall) smiles broadly as he holds up his diamond-shaped trophy.
Woo has added a shiny new line to his resume, “Won the Diamond League Final,” which already includes several milestones in Korean athletics, including a fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics (2.35m), the 2022 World Indoor Championships (2.34m), an individual Diamond League title (2.33m at Doha 2022) and a second-place finish at the 2022 World Championships (2.35m).
Woo Sang-hyuk cleared 2.35 meters to win the men’s high jump at the World Athletics Diamond League Finals 2023 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA, on Sunday (July 17).
The Diamond League Final is the most important event for track and field athletes after the Olympic and World Championships.
Woo became the first South Korean athlete to qualify for the Diamond League Final, and he took home the trophy.
After the race, Woo told Yonhap News Agency, “I’m numb right now. I don’t know what words to use to express my feelings,” he said, pausing to catch his breath before adding, “Winning the Diamond League Finals has been one of my lifelong goals. It feels really good.”
On the day, Woo cleared 2.15m, 2.20m, 2.25m, 2.29m and 2.33m in the first round.
Norbert Kowielski (26-POL) and Jubon Harrison (24-USA) also cleared 2.33 meters, but Woo was the only jumper to go over 2.35 meters.
Woo cleared 2.35 meters in the third period to seal the win.
He said, “I worked really hard to prepare for this competition. To win, you also need luck, and today everything came together,” said Woo, who finished sixth (2.29m) at the World Championships in Budapest in August, but told himself, ‘There are many competitions left. Once I got rid of the compulsion, my time got better,” he said, explaining the secret of his victory.
National coach Kim Do-gyun, whom Woo calls his ‘benefactor,’ also said, “I tried to quickly shake off the disappointment of the Budapest World Championships,” adding, “I finished third (2m31) at the Zurich Diamond League (Sept. 1), but my performance was good. Once the pressure was off, I had my ‘best race of the season’ today.”
This year, Woo struggled with injuries early in the season, including heel pain and sinus surgery.
He finished second at the Diamond League in Doha in May and Florence in June, and sixth in Budapest in August, when he was looking to become the first South Korean to win back-to-back World Championship medals.
However, Woo was not discouraged.
“I was only disappointed for one day at the Budapest World Championships. “After the World Championships, my remaining goals were to win the Diamond League Final and the Hangzhou Asian Games. “After the World Championships, my remaining goals were to win the Diamond League Finals and the Hangzhou Asian Games, and now that I’ve accomplished that, I’ll work even harder to win gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The Diamond League Final will be without the ‘best jumper in the world’ Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qatar).
However, he will be competing at the Hangzhou Asian Games, which kick off on September 23 and include the men’s high jump final on October 4.
“With Barshim, it will be more interesting to watch,” said Woo. “The Diamond League Final is not the last event of the season. I will be happy to win the final today and tomorrow, when the entire winners’ ceremony will be held, and then I will start preparing for the Asian Games again, including weight management.”
Woo also secured his place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The standard for the Paris Games is 2.33m and the qualification period is from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. Woo passed the Paris Olympic standard early.
“After I passed the Paris Olympic standard of 2.33 meters, Coach Kim Do-gyun said, ‘You can run more comfortably now. You can do what you want to do,’” Woo recalled, adding, “Once I passed the Paris Olympic standard and took the pressure off, I was able to easily clear 2.35 meters.”안전놀이터
The Diamond League Finals will run through the 18th.
After all the competitions, the first-place finishers in each event will gather for the ‘Champion Ceremony’.
Woo said, “The scene I could only imagine will unfold tomorrow. “I want to enjoy this joy at the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Paris Olympics as well. Thank you to the people of Korea for their support,” said Woo. I will do my best to win the Hangzhou Asian Games in two weeks.”
Woo will return to Korea on Sept. 19 for final training at the Jincheon National Training Center for the Asian Games before departing for Hangzhou on Sept. 27.