SPORTS

Park Tae-hwan regrets not enjoying world championships

By Alex Park
  • Published : Aug 1, 2017 - 14:49
  • Updated : Aug 1, 2017 - 14:49

INCHEON -- Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan failed to capture any medals at this year's world championships held last month, but that wasn't even his biggest regret.

At 27, a relatively advanced age for a freestyle swimmer, Park knows he just might have raced in his last world championships. And he now wishes he would have enjoyed himself a little more.

Park returned home with the rest of the national team from the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. It was Park's first world championships since Shanghai 2011, when he won the second of his two world titles in the 400m freestyle.

This time, he finished fourth in the 400m free, his main event. He ranked eighth in the 200m free later, and failed to make it out of the heats in the 1,500m free.

Park, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400m free, said he should have tried to enjoy the competition a little more.

South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport on Aug. 1, 2017. (Yonhap)
"I am disappointed with the world championships not because I didn't win any medals, but because I didn't really enjoy it," he told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "I thought a lot about whether I'll race at another world championships in two years' time, or this will be my last one. So I wanted to do well for the fans."

Park insisted he hasn't made any decision about retirement. For now, his focus is on the Asian Games next year in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"I'd like to do well there, because the Asian Games are only held every four years," Park said. "At least I could take some comfort in that I posted better records than a year ago, as I get ready for the Asian Games."

In the 400m final, Park matched his season-best with 3:44.38. He finished the 200m final in 1:47.11, a little off his season-high of 1:46.71.

Park said he felt great during the 400m heats, but he didn't have quite the same vibe in the final. In the 200m, Park said he simply ran out of gas in the latter part of the race.

"I think I let my disappointment from the 400m linger, and it affected my race in the 200m," Park said. "Winning medals would have been nice, too, but more than anything, I wanted better records."

While Park struggled, a pair of rising female swimmers, An Se-hyeon and Kim Seo-yeong, enjoyed strong campaigns. An finished fourth in the 200m butterfly, the highest placement by a South Korean woman at any major international competition. Kim finished sixth in the 200m individual medley, becoming the first South Korean, male or female, to reach an individual medley final at a world championships.

Park said he congratulated both on their performances, and the emergence of younger swimmers should lift some pressure off his shoulders. For years, Park has been the only South Korean swimmer competitive on the world stage.

"I now have faith that these athletes can lead the way and do even better after I retire," he said. "I am looking forward to the development of South Korean swimming." (Yonhap)