After the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) decided to lift its additional 3-year ban on Olympian Park Tae Hwan, the freestyle specialist is on his way to Rio, albeit not with an ideal training plan built up behind him.
Having already served an 18-month banned for testing positive for banned testosterone back in 2014, Olympic medalist Park was then subject to an additional 3-year suspension by the KOC. That additional ban on Korean doping offenders would have rendered Park out of the Rio Olympics.
However, after Park appealed to the Court Arbitration for Sport (CAS), sport’s highest court, the organization ruled in favor of Park, determining that the medalist is indeed eligible for this summer’s Games. The KOC then lifted its ban, rendering the 26-year-old able to compete in Rio.
Park returned from South Korea on Thursday, July 14th, having spent recent time in Australia at a training camp. Post-suspension, Park has competed in just two meets, with the first being the South Korean Trials in April followed by the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of July.
Although Park nabbed four national titles at his nation’s Trials, not knowing at the time if the swims would even count towards anything other than his own career record, he is only ranked within the world’s top ten in one event. His time of 3:44.26 in the men’s 400m freestyle currently sits as the 6th-fastest mark headed into the Rio Olympic Games.
Of his competing in Brisbane, Park said “It was going to be my last competition before the Olympics, and though I am a bit disappointed….. it’s really nothing to worry about,” he said. “It wasn’t the Olympics.” (Yonhap News)
In terms of training, Park told the press this week, “I know I haven’t had much time to prepare, but I’ve been training really hard over that short period of time,” Park said. “And I believe my hard work will pay off and I will be able to put together good performances. The most important thing will be to compete with confidence.” (Yonhap News)
Park has a history of swimming with confidence in the form of winning a gold medal in the men’s 400m freestyle at the 2008 Games and following that up with double silver in the men’s 200m and 400m freestyle events in London. Differing from his pre-2012 experience, however, this time around Park was unable to compete in the World Championships, the most significant international meet that is not the Olympics.
“I am worried about it, but I don’t want to make it an excuse for not doing well at the Olympics,” Park said. “The decision (by the CAS) was reached at the last-minute, but at least I’ll be going to the Olympics.”
“I’m trying not to put pressure on myself, because I am a little behind the pack in the 400m this year,” Park said. “If I can have a good race in the heat and keep at it through the finals, then hopefully it will lead to a medal.”
Park will be traveling to Orlando, Florida for his pre-Olympic camp prior to his arrival in Rio scheduled for July 31st.