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Park Tae-hwan wins 1st gold at short course worlds

Park Tae-hwan has grabbed his first gold medal at the world's top short course competition.

The South Korean star won the men's 400-meter freestyle at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Windsor, Canada, on Tuesday (local time), with a time of 3 minutes, 34.59 seconds.

Aleksandr Krasnykh of Russia finished second at 3:35.30. Peter Bernek of Hungary took third place at 3:37.65.

The short course worlds take place in 25m pools, half the length of the regular-sized pools at the Olympics and other international competitions.

Park's time on Tuesday is the fastest 400m freestyle time at a short course this year, and is also Park's personal best by more than two seconds.

Park was second in the heats behind Krasnykh, and the two battled for the gold in the final. Park was in front after the first 100m, but the Russian overtook the South Korean and held his lead through 300m.

Park made a late charge to take first place after 350m, and held off Krasnykh for the win.

This is Park's first appearance at the 25m world championships since April 2006 in Shanghai, and the first at any short course competition since November 2007. At the 2006 short course worlds, Park won silver in the 400m and 1,500m free.

Park, a former Olympic gold medalist, is also scheduled to compete in the 100m, 200m and 1,500m freestyle races in Windsor.

This is Park's final competition of 2016.

This has been a tumultuous year for the 27-year-old. After his 18-month doping ban ended in March, he took the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) to an international court for the right to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in August.

The 2008 Olympic 400m champion, however, had a disastrous showing in Brazil. He failed to make it out of the heats in the 100m, 200m and 400m free, and withdrew from the 1,500m at the last minute.

Park then regrouped and won two races at the National Sports Festival in October. Then at the Asian Swimming Championships in Tokyo last month, Park picked up four gold medals.

His 200m freestyle winning time in Tokyo, 1:45.16, would have netted Park the silver in Rio.

After the Asian event, Park claimed former vice sports minister Kim Chong had blackmailed him into giving up on his Rio Olympic dreams in May. Kim is a key government figure implicated in the influence-peddling scandal centered on President Park Geun-hye and her long-time confidante, Choi Soon-sil. Kim resigned from his post in the wake of the controversy.  (Yonhap)