Park continues Asiad gold quest

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Park continues Asiad gold quest

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Park Tae-hwan continued to outpace his Chinese rivals in the freestyle swimming competitions at the 16th Asian Games with a gold medal performance last night in the 400-meter freestyle event at the Aoti Acquatics Center in Guangzhou, China.

Park finished first with a time of 3:41.53, coming up just short of Zhang Lin’s Asian record of 3:41.35 set at the 2009 Rome World Championships. Sun Yang of China finished second at 3:42.47 and Zhang came in third at 3:49.15.

Competing in lane two, Park got off to a strong start with the fastest first-50 meters time in the race - 25.87 seconds - and kept up a world record pace until the 300-meter mark, where he clocked in at 2:46.33. Park did maintain a firm lead but failed to keep up his record pace in the final two lengths of the pool.

Earlier in the day, Park did not look overly impressive in the qualifier, clocking in with the fifth fastest time in the field at 3:55.08. Park seemed to have preserved his energy for the final.

With the win, Park was able to claim back-to-back titles in both the 200- and 400-meter freestyle events at the Asian Games.

Park’s strong performance in Guangzhou is more meaningful than the ones he achieved in Doha as a 17-year-old mainly because he is coming off a poor performance at the 2009 Rome World Swimming Championships.

“Tae-hwan has an easy-going personality, which is ideal for an athlete,” said Jung Il-chung, the executive director of the Korea Swimming Federation in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “The shock in Rome must’ve been huge, but he quickly set those feelings aside and trained hard.”

Park’s success could be attributed to his Australian coach Michael Ball. Having started training with Ball in Australia in January, Park came back rejuvenated and placed first in the 400-meter freestyle event at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Irvine, Calif., in August.

Chinese swimmers have won an overwhelming number of gold medals so far. Park and some Japanese swimmers have been able to stake a small claim in the gold medal hunt in the pool. In fact, Park has fared well in China over the course of his career. Having fully recovered from his disappointing showing in Rome last year, Park will look to continue his Asiad performance at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, China.

But first he has to finish up with a 100-meter freestyle race today and a 1500-meter free tomorrow.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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