Park Tae-hwan gears up to claim gold at Worlds

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Park Tae-hwan gears up to claim gold at Worlds

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Park Tae-hwan

Swimming icon Park Tae-hwan, 22, is gearing up to claim gold at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai. His first race of the competition will be the men’s 400-meter freestyle on Sunday.

The 400-meter free is Park’s specialty. He won gold in the event four years ago at the Worlds in Melbourne, Australia. He was the also the top finisher in the event at the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Asian Games.

But Park faltered at the Worlds in Rome two years ago, when he failed to win a medal. He didn’t even get into the finals after finishing 12th in qualifying in 3 minutes, 46.04 seconds.

These days, however, Park is in good form. He collected three gold medals at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix in California last month and won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyle events.

Now, Park is aiming for a new 400-meter freestyle record. The current world-record holder in the event is German Paul Bidermann with a time of 3 minutes, 40.07 seconds, but his time was set before the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned the use of high-tech polyurethane swimsuits.

After the suits were introduced in 2008, 43 world records were set at the Worlds in Rome, which prompted FINA to ban high-tech suits in January 2010. This is the first World Championships after the FINA decision.

Park’s personal best in the 400-meter free is 3 minutes, 41.53 seconds, a record he set last year in the Ghangzhou Asian Games. But he has never used a high-tech suit and is expected to do well against other swimmers who used them.

At this year’s Worlds, Park will have to keep a close eye on his Chinese rival, Sun Yang, who has the season’s best record of 3 minutes, 41.48 seconds. Yang was the runner-up at last year’s Asian Games behind Park, but his recent performance shows he is faster than ever. The two rivals will meet just once, in the 400-meter race.

Park is competing in only two other events - the 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday and the 100-meter free on Thursday.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
박태환, 강한 자신감 “수영이 재미있어졌다”

"마이클 볼 코치와 함께 하며 수영이 재밌어졌다."

박태환이 2011 상하이 세계수영선수권을 앞두고 강한 자신감을 나타냈다.

박태환은 21일 중국 상하이 위안선 스포츠센터에서 호주 대표팀과 함께 훈련을 실했다. 호주 대표팀을 이끌고 있는 볼 코치와 함께 연습을 한 박태환은 주종목인 자유형 400m 금메달과 세계기록 경신에 대해 긍정적인 반응을 보였다.

박태환은 "오전에 경기가 열리는 경기장에 가봤다. 수심도 적당하고 경기장 분위기가 좋다"며 "몸을 풀다보면 분명 달라진 모습을 보일 수 있을 것 같다"는 소감을 말했다. 그는 이어 "자유형 400m에서 치열한 경쟁을 펼칠 것 같다. 집중해서 경기하는 게 가장 중요하다"고 말했다. 박태환은 자유형 400m에서 쑨양(중국)과 야닉 아넬(프랑스)과 경쟁을 펼치게 된다.

박태환은 세계신기록에 대해 "크게 걱정하지 않는다. 볼 코치와 훈련하면서 수영이 정말 재밌어졌다. 미국 국제그랑프리 대회에서도 좋은 결과를 얻었기 때문에 분위기를 이어갈 수 있도록 노력하겠다"고 말했다. 이어 "만약 400m에서 세계기록이 나온다면 나 아니면 쑨양이 세울 것이다. 물론 쑨양은 1500m에서도 세계기록을 노릴 기회가 있다"고 덧붙였다.
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