South Korean high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok has captured the Diamond League Final title, becoming the first athlete from the country to win the prestigious athletics event.
Woo matched his own national record height of 2.35 meters to capture the men's high jump gold medal at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday (local time). Woo also took home US$30,000 in prize money.
It is the same venue where Woo soared to the silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in 2022.
For the field events, only the top six athletes in Diamond League points, accumulated over 13 meets, qualified for the Diamond League Final. Woo finished fourth in points to become the first South Korean to reach the Diamond League Final, and made an even bigger piece of history by winning the event.
Norbert Kobielski of Poland was the runner-up after clearing 2.33m. JuVaughn Harrison of the United States, who finished third, also jumped 2.33m but needed two more attempts to do so than Kobielski.
Woo needed just one attempt each to clear 2.15m, 2.20m, 2.25m and then 2.29m. Harrison, too, stayed perfect through 2.29m.
When the bar was raised to 2.33m, Woo jumped over it in his first attempt. Harrison, on the other hand, only cleared it in his third and final bid.
Kobielski, who required two attempts to clear 2.29m, went over 2.33m in a single try to put some pressure on Woo.
It was when the bar was set at 2.35m that Woo separated himself from the pack. After two botched attempts, Woo jumped over the bar in his third try, and clinched the gold when both Kobielski and Harrison failed to match Woo's feat in their three attempts.
"Winning the Diamond League Final has been one of my lifelong goals. I am so happy to have done it," Woo said. "I don't even have words to describe my feelings. I've worked so hard for this event. Sometimes, you need to be lucky to win these events, and everything fell into place for me."
Missing from the Diamond League Final were two of the very best in the men's high jump today: Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, a three-time world champion and 2021 Olympic gold medalist, and Gianmarco Tamberi, the 2023 world champion who shared the Olympic gold with Barshim two years ago.
Woo will get to renew his rivalry with Barshim at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, next month. The opening ceremony is Saturday and the men's high jump final is set for Oct. 4.
"When I am competing with Barshim, it keeps me on my toes, and it's going to be fun to go up against him at the Asian Games," Woo said of the Qatari star who has won two Asiad gold medals. "Winning an Asian Games gold is an important goal for me. I will try to do even better at the Asian Games than here."
This has been an up-and-down season for Woo, who has battled heel problems and sinus infection. He grabbed silver medals in a couple of Diamond League meets in May and June but finished a disappointing sixth at the world championships in August.
Woo said it didn't take long for him to recover from the world championships.
"After the worlds, I only stayed down for one day. I told myself I had a lot of events left this year, and I wanted to concentrate on them," Woo said. "After the worlds, my goal was to win the Diamond League Final and the Asian Games. Now that I have taken care of one, I will push myself hard at the Asian Games."
Woo first set the national record at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, when he finished in fourth place. He matched it while winning the world championships silver last year and then did so again on the same Eugene field this time.
Woo has also cleared the qualifying height for the Paris Olympics. In the men's high jump, the Olympic entry standard was set at 2.33m, and athletes who meet the requirement between July 1 this year and June 30 next year punch their tickets to France.
Source: Yonhap News Agency