Petty coaches let Park sinkPark Tae-Hwan’s poor performance at the 2009 World Championships shocked much of the nation.
But it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
The Korean swimming community, after all, does not have a decent system in place to train a star swimmer.
When he should have received systemized training in a stable environment, he had to go between his sponsor’s team and the national team. That of course created an undue amount of stress and pressure, which obviously influenced his performance. The situation was so difficult that even Park confessed it troubled him.
After last year’s Beijing Olympic Games, Park trained both in the United States with his sponsor’s team and in Korea with the national team led by coach Roh Min-sang.
His sponsor’s team focused on the 1,500-meter race, while the national team focused on short races. The two teams did not cooperate or share information. In fact, his sponsor’s team did not even have a personal coach for Park, claiming that it would be too difficult. The team said that it would have cost too much to bring in a renowned coach from abroad. Additionally, the team claimed that it was difficult to pick a Korean coach for various reasons.
With this as the backdrop, the swimmer had to go to international events without decent training or a concrete plan.
While some foreign swimmers were wearing the latest high-tech, state of the art bodysuits, Park wore a slower, older generation suit because of sponsorship obligations. He was even required to show up for a photo shoot shortly before the World Championships started.
All of this resulted from the lack of an overall strategy.
This poor system contrasts with the one set up for skating star Kim Yu-na. She has a competent coach, stays in Toronto and focuses on training regimens tailored specifically for her, providing a high level of consistency.
Of course, all of that is possible because the International Skating Union selected a Korean skater good enough to make it to world events. Unlike swimmers, Kim and other skaters do not need to cater to a domestic organization in order to be selected as a member of the national team. And they do not have to train with the national team if they don’t want to.
The swimming federation and Park’s sponsor have fought over him - but neither of them provided him with the support he needed. They must think seriously about their wrongdoing and fix the current system.
Time is running out before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.