SPORTS

Rising swimming star eyes multiple Asian Games medals

By Alex Park
  • Published : Aug 1, 2017 - 14:52
  • Updated : Aug 1, 2017 - 14:52

INCHEON -- With each passing race, South Korean swimmer An Se-hyeon feels her dream is getting bigger and bigger.

The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last month. She finished fourth in the 200-meter butterfly in 2:06.67, just 0.65 second out of bronze, and fifth in the 100m butterfly in 57.07 seconds. Both times were national records, and the fourth place finish in the 200m fly was the best placement ever by a South Korean woman at a major international competition.

After returning home with the rest of the national team, An said her immediate goal now is to win a medal in every one of her races at next year's Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"My goal at the world championships was to make the finals, and after finishing in fourth and fifth place, my dream is getting a little bit bigger," An told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "We have the Asian Games coming up next year, and I'd like to win a medal in every race that I enter. And depending on my times there, I'll readjust my goals accordingly."

South Korean swimmer An Se-hyeon arrives at Incheon International Airport on Aug. 1, 2017, after competing at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. (Yonhap)
The emergence of An is a welcoming sight for a country that has never produced an internationally competitive female swimmer. Park Tae-hwan, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion in the 400m freestyle, has been the one-man wrecking crew.

An has been dubbed in some quarters as the female version of Park, though An herself said she doesn't yet deserve the comparison.

"He's been such a great athlete, and I am just starting out my career," An said. "I watched tapes of my races at the world championships, and I realized I still have a lot of work to do technically."

One thing Park and An do have in common is that both have been coached by Australian Michael Bohl. Though Park is currently training with another coach, An has been working with Bohl since 2015.

An said the coach was quite pleased with her performance, particularly because she met her target lap times.

"Before races, coach Bohl always set lap times for me to meet, and this was the first time I met all my targets," she said. "He said my races were perfect."

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo may be a bit too far down the road for An, who did say she'd like to reach the pinnacle.

"As an athlete, I want to stand at the top (of the podium)," she said. "But I'll take it one step at a time, with the Asian Games next year and the world championships a year after that." (Yonhap)