Veterans show they’re better than ever

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Veterans show they’re better than ever


“Marine boy” Park Tae-hwan races in the men’s 200 meter freestyle event yesterday in Incheon, the host city of the 2014 Asian Games. [NEWSIS]

Star athletes are dominating the 94th National Sports Festival that started on Friday in Incheon, the host of the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

“Marine boy” Park Tae-hwan, who won the gold medal in the men’s 400 meter freestyle swimming race and silver in the men’s 200 meter in freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won the gold medal in the men’s 200 meter freestyle with a record of 1:46.42 (one minute and 46.42 seconds) yesterday in Munhak Park Tae-hwan Swimming Pool. Park set a new event record, which previously was 1:50.04, but he failed to break his personal record of 1:44.80.

Yesterday’s victory was Park’s third gold in the event as he also won the men’s 400 meter freestyle on Saturday and the men’s 400 meter freestyle relay on Sunday. He is aiming to win five events. Park will race in the men’s 800 meter freestyle relay today and the 400 meter medley relay on Thursday.

“I’m very happy with the result,” Park was quoted as saying after yesterday’s race.

“I’m currently aiming to win the 2014 Asian Games, and I think I’m in very good shape. I tried to finish the 200 meter race within 1:47 as my coach, Michael Bohl, told me to do so, and the record was way better than my expectation. I don’t worry about the remaining two races because I’m just trying to enjoy this event and meet many fans ahead of Asia’s biggest sporting event. I think I can race well next year as well if I maintain my physical condition just like now.” Park won five gold medals in the 2007 and 2008 events.


Gymnast Son Yeon-jae performs with her clubs during the rhythm calisthenics final on Sunday. [NEWSIS]

Ahead of the event, Park said that the sports festival would be a new beginning in his swimming career. There have been rumors that Park might retire as he was disqualified in the men’s 400 meter freestyle preliminary round in the 2012 London Olympics. The referees reversed their decision, but Park finished second in the final. After the London event, he failed to extend his sponsorship contract, had a hard time financing his training, and he wasn’t able to participate in the Barcelona FINA World Championships in July.

From March, however, Park started receiving support from the Incheon city government, which needed as many stars as they could find for next year’s Asian Games. Park declared that he will retire after finishing the Asian Games. Woo Hyung-chul of the SJR company, a private academic lesson service provider, donated 500 million won ($475,000) to Park for one year.

Meanwhile, 2010 London Olympic gold medalist Jin Jong-oh won three gold medals in shooting events. In the men’s air pistol group matches held on Sunday, Jin teamed up with Park Chang-jun, Kang Kyung-tak, and Han Seung-woo and took first place with a total score of 1,746. In the men’s individual air pistol shooting that was held later that day, Jin also earned a gold medal with a total score of 202.2, defeating 2010 Asian Games gold medalist Lee Dae-myung, whose score was 199.1, and Park Ji-soo, who took third place with 176.7. Jin also won the men’s 50 meter pistol on Saturday.

In women’s rhythm calisthenics, defending champion Son Yeon-jae won the gold medal on Sunday with a total earned score of 69.750; 17.750 points in the hoop event; 17.950 points in the ball event; 16.850 points in the clubs event; and 17.200 points in the ribbon event, defeating Kim Yun-hee (65.200) and Lee Da-ae (65.050). It was her fourth straight win in a national sports festival.

“I think this is a good sign for me,” Son said after the match. “Since my ultimate goal is winning the Asian Games and the 2016 Brazil Olympics, it was a good pre-exercise for me as I need to prepare well for them.”


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