By Yoo Jee-ho
GWANGJU, July 14 (Yonhap) -- So close, and yet so far.
South Korean diver Woo Ha-ram feels he was right there on Sunday, with his first medal at a FINA World Championships within his grasp.
But he settled for fourth place in the men's 1m springboard final at the 18th world championships in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. The 21-year-old scored 406.15 points to fall 8.85 points behind the bronze medalist, Peng Jianfeng of China.
Woo has been in two finals so far in his fourth world championship appearance. On Saturday, Woo and his teammate Kim Yeong-nam led everyone in the synchronized 3m springboard final at the halfway mark, but they faltered toward the end and finished in 10th place.
Less than 24 hours later, Woo looked poised to put the disastrous stretch behind him. He was in second place on Sunday with only Peng and eventual champion Wang Zongyuan remaining. With Wang virtually assured of the gold medal as long as he avoided some catastrophe in the final dive, Woo would have taken the bronze if Peng hadn't saved his best dive for last. Peng's 76.80 points allowed him to squeeze past the South Korean into third place.
Woo could have avoided the last-minute drive had he not botched his entry in the fifth dive, which resulted in just 57 points, his worst score of the day.
"I missed the timing on the entry, and I wasn't in a great position," Woo said of his biggest miscue of the final. "But I'd like to pat myself on the back for competing against the world's best divers on equal terms."
Woo said he has come a long way since the days of being a wide-eyed teenager jumping next to some of the world's best in the sport.
"At my first world championships in 2013, I couldn't even make it out of the preliminary and I was more than 100 points behind the top divers," Woo said. "I've narrowed the gap quite a bit, and with just a little more push, I will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best."
In particular, Woo feels that he and other South Korean divers have made considerable progress in their technique. They just have to stay sharper with their fundamentals, Woo said, echoing the sentiment expressed by Kim after their synchronized diving final on Saturday.
Woo will try to shake off the run of disappointing finishes, with the synchronized 10m platform and 3m springboard remaining. Unlike the 1m springboard, both are Olympic events, and Woo can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by reaching the finals here.
"I've got important events left, and my goal all along has been to grab Olympic spots," Woo said. "I feel like I've tried to do a bit too much because I am competing in front of home fans. But at the same time, their support has been awesome, and I've been feeding off their energy."