The Korean swimming and diving and artistic swimming teams have traveled to Doha, Qatar, to compete at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships.
Eight diving athletes, including Woo Haram (Korea Sports Promotion Agency) and Kim Soo-ji (Ulsan Metropolitan City Hall), and artistic swimming duo Lee Ri-young (Busan Swimming Federation) and Heo Yoon-seo (Apgujeonggo), along with their coaching staff, departed from Incheon International Airport on February 27.
The Doha World Aquatics Championships will be held from Feb. 2-19 (KST).
Diving and artistic swimming events will be held from Feb. 2-10 in the first half of the competition.
The Korean diving and artistic swimming teams are aiming to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
“I believe that in Doha, diving duo Woo Haram and Kim Soo-ji and artistic swimming duo Lee Ri-young and Heo Yun-seo will bring home a spot at the Paris Olympics,” said Chung Chang-hoon, president of the Korean Swimming Federation. They will deliver good news to the fans who love Korean swimming.”
After struggling with a back injury since 2022, Uharam hopes to use Doha as a turning point.
At the 2021 Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Uharam finished fourth in the men’s 3-meter springboard, his best-ever finish, and helped South Korean diving achieve the “dream of an Olympic medal” that had previously been unthinkable.
However, Uharam missed the 2022 World Championships in Budapest due to a sore back, and at the 2023 Games in Fukuoka, where he was unable to shake off the lingering effects, he finished 19th in the men’s 3-meter springboard preliminaries, missing out on a semifinal spot that would have given him 18th place.
“I’m at 100 percent now,” said Uharam. I wasn’t 100% confident until the Hangzhou Asian Games last fall, but I can definitely feel my body improving since this year.” “My performance hasn’t reached 100%, but I don’t feel any discomfort in training. I will try to qualify for the 3-meter springboard final to secure my place in Paris and then go for more.”
In diving, qualification for Paris is allocated to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) rather than individual athletes.
If Uharam reaches the 3-meter springboard final (top 12) at the Doha World Championships, Korea Diving will effectively secure one spot for Paris. It is likely that Korean Swimming will give the qualifying athlete the same number of spots for Paris.
Women’s diving standout Kim Soo-ji, who became the first Korean woman to win a World Championships medal (bronze in the 1-meter springboard) in Gwangju in 2019, will also be looking to qualify for the 3-meter springboard final in Doha and secure a spot in Paris.
“I want to qualify for the Olympic Games in the 3-meter springboard and do well in other events,” said Kim, who also competes in the 1-meter springboard, women’s synchro 3-meter springboard and mixed synchro 3-meter springboard. “I finished fourth in the mixed synchro at the Fukuoka Games last year, and I’m hoping to do even better this year,” she said.
A total of 18 teams will compete in the Artistic Swimming Duet event at the Paris Olympics.
The 10 countries that qualified for the team event and the five teams that won the continental championships will receive the first berths, with the remaining berths distributed according to the results of the World Championships in Doha.
The duet pairs from the countries that qualified for the team event are likely to finish in the top half of the World Championships, so if they reach the final (top 12) at the Doha World Championships, they will have a good chance of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.
At last year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Heo Yun-seo placed sixth in the solo free and Lee Ri-young placed ninth in the solo technical.
Solo events are not part of the Olympic program.
They finished 13th in both the duet technical and free, missing out on a ticket to the final after finishing 12th.
At the Hangzhou Asian Games, they finished fourth and missed the podium.
“With the new rules for artistic swimming, the accuracy of the movements is more important,” said Lee and Heo. “We worked hard to improve our technical skills and not lose sight of the artistic aspect so that our 180-degree turn could be judged as perfect by anyone. If we do what we have prepared, we will be able to qualify for the Paris Olympics.”
If Lee and Heo’s hopes are realized, Korean artistic swimming will return to the Olympic Games 12 years after London 2012.