Woo Sang-hyeok breaks 24-year-old Korean high jump record

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Woo Sang-hyeok breaks 24-year-old Korean high jump record

Woo Sang-hyeok competes during the men's high jump final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday. [XINHUA/YONHAP]

Woo Sang-hyeok competes during the men's high jump final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday. [XINHUA/YONHAP]

 
Woo Sang-hyeok broke a 24-year-old Korean high jump record on Sunday, clearing the bar at 2.35 meters during the men's high jump finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
 
Woo's attempt surpassed the long-standing Korean national record of 2.34 meters, set on June 20, 1997 by Lee Jin-taek.
 
Woo is a two-time Olympian, having also competed at the Rio Olympics. Back in 2016, Woo only managed to clear the bar at 2.26 meters, failing to reach the final. This time, Woo had already managed 2.28 meters during the preliminaries on Friday, advancing to the final. The last time a Korean advanced to the finals was at the 1996 Atlanta Games, where Lee finished eighth.  
 
Not only did Woo set a new Korean record, he also reached new heights in the competition, finishing just outside of medal contention in fourth place. 
 
Woo Sang-Hyeok gestures to a television camera during the men's high jump final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Sunday in Tokyo. [AP/ YONHAp]

Woo Sang-Hyeok gestures to a television camera during the men's high jump final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Sunday in Tokyo. [AP/ YONHAp]

 
In order to attempt to reach the top three, Woo had to try to jump for a new height that he has never tried on the big stage, 2.39 meters. After failing his second try, he smiled and yelled "that's okay." Woo was full of confidence, yelling "let's go" even on his last try, almost clearing the 2.39 meter bar before clipping it with his thigh at the end. 
 
Woo narrowly missing out on a medal, with the IOC deciding to give two gold medals to both Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy, with third-place Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus taking the bronze medal.
 
Woo's 2.35 meters would have won bronze at the Rio Games, where Barshim won silver for clearing 2.36 meters and Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine won bronze with 2.33 meters. At the Tokyo Games, the top six athletes including Woo all broke their national or season records.  
 
Woo's fourth-place finish and new record offers an optimistic outlook on the future of Korean athletics. While athletics may be at the heart of the Summer Games, Korea has only ever won two medals, both in the marathon event.  

BY YUN SO-HYANG [yun.sohyang@joongang.co.kr]
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