The pre-meet buzz in Incheon, South Korea for the 2014 South Korean National Championships was Park Tae Hwan’s quest to make the Asian Games roster (which will be hosted in this same pool) in the 200 and IMs.
But on Wednesday, as the trials began, he whispered a reminder that he is still one of the world’s best middle-distance freestyles. In 2014, make that the best so far, at least in the 200, after swimming a 1:45.25. That cuts two-tenths off of Cameron McEvoy’s old world leading swim.
As an event winner, he’ll qualify for the 2014 Asian Games, as will all event winners. He’s the two-time defending Asian Games champion in the event, and this time is already good enough to have won in 2006 or 2010. The trend at the Asian Games, though, is huge improvements in times with every edition, especially in the men’s events, and especially in the middle-distance freestyles. A medal in 2006 was a 1:49, which became a 1:47 in 2010, and with China’s improvements will be at least a 1:45 this year. That doesn’t make Park less than the favorite, however, between now and late September when the Asian Games kick off, he’s gotta find another few tenths to drop.
The rest of the first day’s results were solid. Choi Kyu-woong won the men’s 100 breaststroke in a new Meet Record of 1:02..08, which is still a second shy of his own National Record. The women’s event was taken by Back Su Yeon in 1:09.57, just out-touching Kim Hye-jin’s 1:09.65.
The only other race on Wednesday was the 50 butterfly, where Yun Seok Huan broke another Meet Record, going 24.24. In the women’s race, two went under the old contest standard, with Whang Seo Jin beating An Se Hyeon 27.15-27.16.