The Republic of Korea’s Hwang Dae Heon came into 2019/20 red hot.
Hwang Dae Heon (KOR) at the ISU Four Continents Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Having finished second overall at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and without Champion Lim Hyo Jun, also of Korea, in the field, he was expected to rule the roost – and at the start of the season, he did just that.
Hwang Dae Heon (KOR), Lim Hyo Jun (KOR) and Semen Elistratov (RUS) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
At the Salt Lake City ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event, Hwang was ruthless as he won both the 500m (1) and 1000m with some unanswerable displays of speed.
The ice at the Utah Olympic Oval is the fastest around, and Hwang revealed that he had been aiming to break Wu Dajing’s world record of 39.505s – set in November 2018 at the same venue.
Hwang fell agonisingly short of his aim – missing out by a little over two tenths of a second – but claimed to be content to be top of the podium. “Just to win is enough for me,” Hwang said. “I’m more focused for the next race now.”
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안녕하세요. 쇼트트랙국가대표 황대헌입니다. 어느덧 이번 시즌을 마무리하는 시기가 되었습니다. 아쉬움도 많이 남지만, 오히려 그런 과정을 통해 더 많이 배우고 성장할 수 있는 시간이 되었던 것 같습니다. 시즌 후반기로 갈수록, 몸도 마음도 많이 지쳐갔지만 응원해주고 지켜봐주는 팬들이 있어 좋은 성적을 거둘 수 있었습니다. 진심으로 감사드립니다. 그리고 항상 옆에서 응원해주는 부모님과 형, 누나, 동생, 감독님, 코치님 감사합니다. 다가오는 국가대표 선발전에서 좋은 모습 보여드릴 수 있도록 저는 다시 열심히 뛰겠습니다. 앞으로도 많은 응원 부탁드리겠습니다. 감사합니다.🙏🏻
Injury, alas, would slow his progress. It would not be until the ISU Four Continents Short Track Speed Skating Championships that Hwang would start to look his excellent self again. He dominated at the event’s first edition in Montreal, taking gold in the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and 5000 Men’s Relay, as well as the overall crown.
Hwang Dae Heon (KOR) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (GER) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the Sprint in particular, Hwang’s raw speed was too much for the rest: he positioned himself up front early and never relinquished the head of the field. “I knew I wouldn’t have the confidence to deliver the late power that I might need,” he said about being somewhat injury-depleted.
“So I wanted to make sure I hit the front right away. I really have to thank the coaches for getting me to this point.”
Hwang Dae Heon (KOR) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (CAN) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the 1500m, he played a more tactical game, knowing that he would have to sit tight and strike late. So it proved.
Ultimately, it was not quite his year. The season overall probably belonged to another male Korean skater, Park Ji Won, who came very good late in the season. But a fully fit Hwang, back at his best, still takes some beating.