Go to contents

Mental game to help swimmer Park at world tourney

Posted June. 21, 2011 06:38,   


“He is better now than he was at the 2009 Rome (FINA World Swimming Championships), but it is premature to be optimistic.”

This is one assessment of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Park Tae-hwan, nicknamed “Marine Boy,” who won three titles at the Santa Clara International Invitational in California that closed Sunday.

Park, 22, won the men’s 100-meter freestyle with a time of 48.92 seconds, beating American swim king Michael Phelps (49.61). Park also claimed the 200-meter freestyle (1 minute 45.92 seconds) and the 400 meters (3 minutes 44.99).

Analysts say Park’s times are commendable given lingering fatigue from a training camp meant for boosting his stamina in Mexico’s highland region of San Luis.

Given that more than a month is left before this year`s world championships in Shanghai scheduled for July 16-31, he still has ample room to further improve his times.

Park’s rival, Sun Yang of China, 20, is also fast improving his performance, however. So for Park to dispel the painful memory of failing to make the final rounds in all the categories, he should improve a bit more, watchers say.

Sun Yang had times of 1 minute 44.99 seconds in the 200-meter freestyle and 3 minutes 41.48 seconds in the 400-meter freestyle, first in the world rankings this season. Compared to Park’s personal bests set at the Guangzhou Asian Games last year, Yang`s performance lags behind in the 200-meter freestyle (1 minute 44.80 seconds) but is better in the 400 meters (4 minutes 41.53 seconds).

Sun lost to Park and earned just a silver medal by a narrow margin in both races due to failure in strategy, and will likely seek to avenge his losses in Shanghai. As such, the duel between the two swimmers has attracted global interest.

Song Hong-seon, researcher at the Korea Institute of Sport Science, said, “In the men’s 400-meter freestyle, the winner will be determined by a competition of strategies.” Hong assisted Park win the gold in the event at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Analysts say that having judged he failed to properly cope with Park’s early spurt, Sun will have undergone ample training stressing aggressiveness and cut his 50-meter lap time from the very beginning. As a result, he has seen his times rapidly improve in recent months thanks to these training sessions.

Song said, “In the end, the color of medals will differ depending on race strategy used on the day of competition.”

With the 400-meter freestyle race set for July 24, the opening day of the Shanghai event, the result of this first race will also affect that of the 200-meter freestyle the second day, analysts say.