Park Tae-hwan aims to add to medal collection in 200 meters
It was a much-anticipated victory, but Park Tae-hwan could not hide his disappointment after winning the 400-meter freestyle crown at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai on Sunday.
There were no pumped fists or cheers. Instead, the South Korean swimming star just stared at the record board for a while after touching the pad first.
“I wanted a record, but I was so nervous,” he said after the race.
Korea’s Park Tae-hwan is eyeing more medals to go along with his 400m freestyle gold. (Yonhap News)
On Sunday, the 22-year-old clocked 3 minutes, 42.04 seconds to win the 400 freestyle event, beating Chinese rival Sun Yang at second place with 3:43:24. Germany’s Paul Biedemann finished third for the bronze medal with 3:44:14.
Park’s time was just off his career best of 3:41:53 and 1.97 seconds behind the world record of 3:40.07 set by Biedermann at the 2009 World Championships.
Before the Shanghai Worlds, the Olympic medalist said that he was determined to make up for his disappointing 2009 World Championships ― he finished 12th in the 400 at the 2009 World Championships. He also noted that he was aiming to set a new record in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.
Maybe because he put too much thought into the race, Park started off nervously Sunday. He managed to finish third in his heat and seventh overall in 3:46:74.
In the final he started brilliantly, jumping into the pool with the best reaction time of 0.67 seconds. The freestyle specialist had record splits in 50m, 100m and 150m, close to setting a new world record.
Although he dropped to fourth after 250m, Park took the lead again at 300 m, and made a stunning finish to claim his second world title.
“I just raced without worrying about other swimmers,” Park said after the final. He was confident and in control, and also said he would continue his quest for world records.
“I will train harder to improve, and will break the world record in the near future,” he added.
The time may come soon. Park is now looking to add medals, and also set a new record in 100 and 200 races in Shanghai.
In the 200 freestyle, Park is expected to compete against American swimming great Michael Phelps, and world record holder Biedermann.
At the 2009 championships in Rome, the Beijing gold medalist failed to make it into the finals in both the 200 and 100. But this year, having teamed up with Michael Bohl, and finishing strong at the 400, Park is believed to be in his best form.
To prepare for the Worlds Championships with the Australian coach, Park dropped out of the 1,500 in order to focus on short distances. The training seems to have already paid dividends in Shanghai.
Park’s underwater start used to go for around 6-7 meters, but in the 400 final on Sunday he recorded 12 meters with a stronger dolphin kick, and his turn skills had also much improved from the last year.
Considered a strong favorite, Park is to compete in the men’s 200 freestyle final on Tuesday evening. He will also compete in the 100 heat, which is set for Wednesday. The 100 final is Thursday.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)