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Swim Prodigy’s Confidence Is Growing

Posted August. 25, 2006 03:03,   

한국어

Swimmer Park Tae-hwan’s (17, Kyunggi High School) confidence is just as world-class as his swimming.

After winning two medals in the 2006 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships for the 400 and 1,500-meter freestyle, he returned to his home country on August 24, vowing that he will “race against world champion Grant Hacket.” Australian swimming hero Hacket (26) clocked in at 14 minutes and 34.56 seconds at the 2001 1,500-meter freestyle, making the world record. He did not race in the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.

Park said, “Next March I’m going to race against him.” Park’s 1,500-meter record is 15 minutes and 0.32 seconds, a full 25 seconds behind Hacket’s. But without this kind of confidence that marks Park, he would never have made it this far. A young athlete just in his second year of high school, his aggressiveness and confidence were what won him two golds, one silver, and two Asian records at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, where the competition from the U.S., Australia, and Japan was sizzling. For the 400-meter freestyle, Park beat Klete Keller from the U.S., also a bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Keller ranks first in the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), showing how Park is growing by leaps and bounds.

“The greatest reward from the championships was the boost I got in my self-esteem from knowing I can win in an international arena. I know I need to improve, but if I work on it steadily, I think I can win.”

Park’s goals are clear. His first goal is to win the triple crowns at the Qatar Doha Asian Championships for the 200, 400, and 1,500-meter freestyle. Then comes the world championships next March, and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics he plans to win a gold medal, the first in history for Korea. Park says, “To achieve my goals, I need to train hard on my stamina and technique. Right now I’m focusing on weight training and on my shaky starts and turns.”

After a brief vacation, Park will go into the Tae-Rung Athlete Camp where he will resume his training. In November, he will fly to China for some high-altitude training.



yjongk@donga.com