Park falls short of goal but still gets 200m bronze
In the men’s 200-meter freestyle final held yesterday at the Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center - which is even named for him - the 25-year-old Korean swimming icon won a bronze medal by finishing the race in 1:45:85 seconds. Surprisingly, the winner of the event wasn’t even his biggest rival, Sun Yang of China. Hagino Kosuke, 20, of Japan stole the show by winning the gold medal with a time of 1:45:23 seconds, leading to a collective sigh of frustration from the thousands of Korean fans who had gathered to see their hero win a gold medal in a home event. Sun won silver, with a time of 1:45:28 seconds.
Park qualified for the preliminary round by winning Heat 3 with a time of 1:50:29 seconds, putting him in fourth overall after Sun Yang, who won Heat 4 in 1:48.90 seconds. In accordance with the preliminary result, Park was assigned to race in lane six, while preliminary round winner Sun was assigned to lane four and Kosuke to lane five.
Park led the race in the first 50-meter leg, finishing it in 24.57 seconds, but Sun took the lead in the next two sections. It looked like the title was going to be taken by China, but Japan’s rising swimming star suddenly put out a burst of speed to take the lead between Park and Sun in the final lap, and hit the touch pad first to win his first Asian Games gold.
“I felt tired in the last 25-meter stretch,” Park said after the race. “I think it was a matter of stamina because I felt my legs and arms weren’t moving strongly at the moment. I feel so sorry for fans that I couldn’t meet their expectations, but since I have other races, I will try my best to perform better.”
Sports analysts and fans expected the 200-meter event to be one of the best matchups due to the rivalry between Park and Sun. Park won the 200m, 400m and 1,500m in Doha in 2006 and won the 200m and 400m four years ago, while the Chinese won silvers in the 200m and 400m that year. But the two veterans now have to remember the name Kosuke in future events.
The crowd at the aquatic center were disappointed, but they cheered Park as he left with the dream still alive to pull off a dramatic win in the 400m freestyle to be held tomorrow.
Park will also compete in the men’s 100m and 1,500m freestyle and 400m and 800m relay.
BY KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]