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Park Tae-hwan Rewrites Korean History of Swimming

Posted March. 26, 2007 07:13,   


Park Tae-hwan (18, Kyonggi High School), a “swimming prodigy,” rewrote Korea’s history of swimming on Sunday.

The teenage swimmer set an Asian record of 3:44:30, finishing first in the men’s 400-meter freestyle final in the 2007 FINA World Swimming Championships held at the Susie O`Neill Pool in Melbourne, Australia. Right behind him was Mellouli Oussama (3:45:12) from Tunisia. Grant Hackett, an Australian swimmer, came in third (3:45:43).

This is the first time that a Korean swimmer has won in the World Championships.

Korean swimmers have participated in world swimming competitions since the 1991 World Swimming Championships held in Perth, Australia. But only two Korean swimmers have reached the finals. Han Kyu-chul (a Kyonggi High School student at that time) ranked 7th in the men’s 200m butterfly stroke final in the 1998 Perth World Swimming Championships, Australia, while Lee Nam-eun (Hyojung High School, Ulsan) finshed 8th in the women’s 50m backstroke final in the 2005 Championships held in Montreal.

Park started first while taking only 0.68 seconds to start among eight finalists. But he remained fifth until he finished the 300 meters while trying to save his energy. With only 50 meters to go, the Korean swimming star began to catch up with other competitors, and to everyone’s surprise, finally finished first, beating Mellouli by 0.82 seconds.

Park’s victory was expected from the heats held earlier. He recorded a time of 3:46:24, the second best record among 76 swimmers, increasing his prospects of winning a medal.

He also lowered his record by 4.14 seconds from the 3:48:44 he set at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar last December, and by 1.42 seconds from the 3:45:72 he set in the Pan-Pacific Championships held in Canada last August where he won a gold medal with a new Asian record.

In the meantime, Choi He-ra (16, Seoul Physical Education High School) finished 15th, recording a 2:17:21 in the women’s 200m medley, which put her among the top 16 swimmers allowed to swim in the semifinals.