|Park Tae-hwan. (Yonhap News)|
With the 94th National Sports Festival heading toward the finish line, Olympic swimming star Park Tae-hwan has emerged as the front-runner for the MVP honors.
Park, the gold medalist in the men’s 400-meter freestyle at the
2008 Beijing Summer Games, has snatched up four swimming medals through Tuesday. Competing at the swimming arena bearing his own name in the host city of Incheon, west of Seoul, Park finished first in the men’s 200 m freestyle, 400 m freestyle, 4x100 m relay and 4x200 m relay.
He was the anchor in both of the relay events and mounted a huge comeback over the final stretch to give his Incheon team gold medals.
This year’s National Sports Festival will conclude on Thursday.
Incheon is serving as host to the largest national multisport competition for the first time in 14 years.
Park, who has three more Olympic medals to his credit, had also been the National Sports Festival’s MVP in 2005, 2007 and 2008. (Yonhap News)
Teenage archer Lee Woo-seok has picked up four gold medals to tie Park for most titles at this year’s competition. The high school freshman won the 30 ｍ, 50 ｍ and 70 ｍ gold medals in the high school division, and stunned world champion Lee Seung-yun in the individual all-around final.
Two female swimmers who established new national records appear to have an outside shot at the MVP honor. Baek Su-yeon won the women’s 100ｍ breaststroke in 1:08.31, breaking a four-year-old Korean record by 0.12 of a second.
Choi Hye-ra captured the women’s 200 ｍ individual medley in 2:12.55, improving her own Korean record by three-tenths of a second.
Choi was voted the MVP at the 2010 National Sports Festival.
While Park Tae-hwan has excelled in the pool, other Olympic medalists have struggled to live up to their billings.
Ki Bo-bae, a double gold medalist in women’s archery at the 2012 London Games, walked away with a bronze in the 50ｍ and a silver in the individual all-around final. She failed to crack the top 10 in the qualifying rounds for the 30 ｍ, 60 ｍ and 70 ｍ.
Oh Jin-hyek, the men’s individual champion in London, has four bronze medals against no gold in Incheon.
In boxing, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist Han Sun-cheol was knocked out of the quarterfinals in Incheon. In Judo, Cho Jun-ho, a surprise bronze medal winner at last year’s Olympics, withdrew from his final match with an injury and settled for silver. (Yonhap News)