|Park Tae-hwan (Yonhap)|
In a rare career choice, South Korean swimming star Park Tae-hwan will try to qualify for individual medley races at the upcoming Asian Games, officials said on Tuesday.
The Korea Swimming Federation said Park has signed up for four freestyle races and two individual medley events at the national team trials to be held next week in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, ahead of this year’s Asian Games.
Incheon, a metropolitan city just west of Seoul, will stage the Asian Games from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. Park will be competing at a newly built arena named after him.
According to the federation, Park will race in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 1,500-meter in freestyle, and 200 and 400 in individual medley at the national team trials. The winners of each race will qualify for the Asian Games.
The individual medley event requires a swimmer to race equal distances with four different strokes ― butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
Park has been a freestyle specialist all his career. He won the 2008 Olympic gold medal and the 2012 Olympic silver medal in the 400 freestyle, in addition to world titles in the distance in 2007 and 2011. In the 200 freestyle, Park has won two Olympic silver medals and one world championship bronze medal.
The 24-year-old has been even more dominant in freestyle at the Asian Games. He swept up gold medals in the 200, 400 and 1,500 at the 2006 Asiad in Doha, Qatar, and then won gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
Park, though, has never competed in individual medleys at major international competitions.
At a domestic meet in July 2010, Park entered and won the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:01.78.
A year later, he competed in the 200 individual medley at the Santa Clara Grand Prix but finished 26th in the heats at 2:08.18.
According to the KSF, the 400 individual medley will take place on the same day as the 1,500 freestyle, and Park may choose to compete in only one of the two.
Park is currently training with the Australian coach Michael Bohl in Brisbane. He’s scheduled to return to South Korea on Saturday to prepare for the national team trials.
He will return to Australia on July 30. (Yonhap)