After a tumultuous lead-up to and disappointing outing at the 2016 Olympic Games, Korean swimmer Park Tae-Hwan has been on the upswing. Both at the Korean Sports Festival this past October, as well as at November’s Asian Championships, Park threw down world-class times in his most dangerous events.
Park put a cap on his memorable back half of 2016 by upsetting 2016 Italian Olympic Champion Gregorio Paltrinieri in the 1500m freestyle race at last month’s FINA Short Course World Championships. Park raced to a new personal best time of 14:15.51, lowering the Asian, Korean and Championship records all in one swim. That eye-popping outing added to his earlier gold medal-winning swims in the 200m and 400m events at the meet in which he also lowered the Asian Records.
Through Short Course Worlds, Park had been training alongside Bobby Hurley with Tim Lane at Warringah in Australia, but Hurley has since moved on to a new coaching role while Park has returned to Korea. At an open practice this week at Munhak Park Tae-Hwan Aquatics Center, so-named after the 2008 Olympic champion himself, Park talked to reporters about what he will set out to do in a refreshed 2017.
“I have already started my personal training for the new year,” Park said. “Though I had suffered through hard times last year, I was able to deliver good news in the end. I want to bring good news throughout this year.” (Korean Times)
Although the 27-year-old has not definitively decided on the events in which he’ll attack at this summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, any swimmer planning on contesting the 200m and 400m freestyles should be put on notice.
“I am greedy and I want to win the 200m freestyle. I also have a dream to win the 400m title, as it is the event that I claimed the gold medal for at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For me, it is a symbolic event.”
Park finished 2016 ranked 2nd in the world in the 200m freestyle, with his year’s best of 1:45.16 sitting only behind Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang’s 1:44.63. Park’s 400m freestyle time of 3:44.26 finished the year as the 7th-fastest performance.
As for other events in Budapest, Park says he may challenge for the 1500m, but says he “feels pressure to achieve a good record”, which he believes would be more likely to come in the aforementioned shorter events. He says his goal has “always been to break my personal best record. It has been 7 years since I set my best in 2010.”
Beyond Budapest, Park is only looking ahead to the 2018 Asian Games slated for Jakarta. He says, “I put more importance on next year’s Asian Games than the 2020 Summer Olympics. Also, people around me are already telling me about competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but I don’t want to just fizzle out there.”