After a long ordeal fighting for his chance to represent South Korea at the 2016 Olympic Games, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Park Tae Hwan failed to light fireworks in Rio. But, the 27-year-old freestyle specialist has said he will keep competing and he most recently put up two performances to back up the determination to continue his career.
Leading up to Rio, Park had already served an 18-month ban for testing positive for banned testosterone back in 2014. He was then subject to an additional 3-year suspension by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC), which was only lifted after an appeal to the Court Arbitration of Sport.
Thus headed into Brazil, Park had anything but an ideal training plan built up behind him, and it showed. The man who claimed 2008 gold in the 400m freestyle and double silver in the 200 and 400m freestyle events in London was an absolute non-factor against the likes of China’s Sun Yang and Australia’s Mack Horton.
In Rio, Park wound up 32nd in the 100m freestyle (49.24), 29th in the 200m freestyle (1:48.06) and 10th in the 400m freestyle (3:45.63), making some wonder if the athlete’s aquatic career was on a downward slope.
Park may have indeed just proven his shoddy preparation leading up to this summer’s Games was to blame for his not stepping foot anywhere near the podium. While competing at the Korean National Sports Festival this week, Park nabbed two golds while establishing two meet records.
In the 200m freestyle, Park threw down a mighty 1:45.01, a time which would have earned silver behind Sun Yang in Rio. Park also registered a time of 3:43.68 this week in Asan in the 400m freestyle, a mark which would have just missed the Rio podium, placing 4th among Olympic competitors.
Park’s personal bests in both events, which also double as his nation’s records, check-in at 1:44.80 and 3:42.53, respectively. But, those times are from 2010. The fact that Park is approaching that same form now, is a good sign for his possible performances at the 2017 Asian Games, as well as a possible run in Tokyo come 2020.