The Korea Herald


Park guns for world record at Olympics


Published : Oct. 17, 2011 - 19:32

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South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan said Monday his goal at next year‘s London Olympics isn’t just to win a gold medal, but to set a world record.

The 2008 Olympic champion in the men‘s 400-meter freestyle and two-time world champion for that distance, Park said his winning times have left much to be desired.

“I have done well at world championships and at Asian Games, but my records show that I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Park said at a press conference Monday. The 22-year-old won world titles in 2007 and 2011, and collected six gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games.

“My ultimate goal is to set a world record, and I am pretty driven to pull that off,” he added.

Park, a 400-meter specialist, plans to compete in both the 400 meters and 200 meters races in London. More so than in the past, Park this year has openly talked about his desire to break a world record, especially in the 400 meters. After winning the 400-meter title at this year‘s world championships in Shanghai, Park reacted with disappointment that he didn’t set a new record.

The 400-meter freestyle world record is 3:40.07, compared to Park‘s personal best of 3:41.53, and the freestyle 200-meter record is 1:42.00, whereas Park’s best-ever time is 1:44.80.

Both records were set by Paul Biedermann of Germany at the 2009 world championships during the height of the high-tech swimsuit frenzy, when polyurethane suits -- since banned -- were credited with producing 43 world records overall at the event.

Park has never donned a high-tech suit, and Biedermann himself hasn‘t come close to matching those times in less advanced suits.

The Korean star said he is solely focused on the performance.

“If I can prepare the right way, I think I will be on the top at the end,” Park said. “I am not yet in my best shape. The plan is to be up to 80 percent ready by June, just before the Olympics, and then to start working on my racing management.”

In 400 meters, Park has been the man to beat over the past four years, aside from a hiccup at the 2009 world championships, when he failed to make the final. In 200 meters, Park’s performance has been more up and down. He won silver behind Michael Phelps in Beijing, but failed to gain the podium at this year‘s world championships.

“Both are important events for me, and I am trying to balance my training for those two,” Park said. “I’d like to do better in 200 meters. Starts and turns are crucial in that distance and I want to improve in those areas for London.”

Park‘s chief competition in 400 meters will likely come from Biedermann and Sun Yang of China. At the world championships this year, Sun and Biedermann came in second and third behind Park.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn‘t paying attention to them,” Park said. “But they give me extra motivation and fire. That is a plus for me.”

Park is scheduled to travel to Australia Thursday to begin his training program with coach Michael Bohl. He said the first leg of the training will last for two months.

Park plans to enter a meet in Sydney in February and a South Korean event in April, with a possible European date in June. 

(Yonhap News)