Just two days after having been announced to the Korean swimming team headed to Jakarta, Indonesia later this summer for the 2018 Asian Games, 2008 Olympic champion Park Tae Hwan has announced he is pulling out of the competition. Revealed just today, June 29th, Park said that he is not in good enough swimming shape to represent his nation this summer.
“I’ve realised that I am in no shape to post good records. Rather than saying I am retiring, I’d like to take some time to think about my future.” (Eurosport)
The Asian Games boosted Park’s career in his early days, where the then-16-year-old kicked off his international career by winning the meet’s MVP award back in 2006. At those Games, Park raced his way to 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle gold. He followed that up with triple gold across the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle in 2010 before taking on the 2014 edition of the Games. In between, he became 400m freestyle Olympic champion in 2008.
Park indeed swam away with 5 medals at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, but the results were ultimately washed away due to a positive doping test made public in early 2015. The Asian superstar served an 18-month ban that rendered him out of the 2015 World Championships and almost out of the Rio Olympics.
He bounced back with a trio of gold medals at the 2016 Short Course World Championships, including setting a new Asian Record in the 1500m event. Park fell just short of the 400m freestyle podium in Budapest, finishing in 4th at his first long course World Championships in 4 years.
Most recently, the 28-year-old competed at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara where his highest finish was 2nd in the 800m freestyle with a time of 7:57.68. He claimed 7th in the 400m in 3:55.87, while also winning the consolation final of the 200m free in 1:48.22.
With Park out of the Asian Games now, the Korean team will need to depend on its two women powerhouse athletes to bring home some hardware. National record holders An Seyheon and Kim Seoyeong are among the world’s elite in their respective specialty events, with Seyheon ranked 19th in the world in the women’s 100m butterfly, while Seoyeong holds the top spot worldwide in the women’s 200m IM.