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Return of Mermaid

Posted April. 18, 2008 03:21,   


Jang Hee-jin refused an offer to enter the Olympic village and went to the United States to study. The 22-year-old student of the University of Texas at Austin, however, chose to become a mermaid again.

She set a new competition record of 25.78 seconds in women’s 50-meter freestyle at the 80th Dong-A Swimming Competition, which was co-hosted by the Dong-A Ilbo and the Korea Swimming Federation and co-sponsored by Kyobo Life Insurance and Arena Sports, at the Munsu Indoor Swimming Pool in Ulsan, Thursday.

She participated in a national competition in eight years since 2000 when she participated in the 72nd Dong-A Swimming Competition and set a then national record of 26.93 seconds in women’s 50-meter freestyle.

She came back to Korea this time to become a national athlete. An athlete who wants to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games should secure a national record before the end of April. To that end, she chose a hard schedule of skipping classes, arriving in Korea on Sunday, finishing a swimming competition of women’s 100-meter freestyle Friday and going back to the United States Saturday.

Even though she suffered from jet lag, she beat Yu Yun-ji, 24, who finished the game with 26.49 seconds, qualifying the Olympic B benchmark record of 26.32 seconds. Moreover, Jang bettered her personal best by about half a second at the competition. But, she still lags behind the national record of 25.63 seconds by 0.15 second. Even though she failed to make through the Olympic A benchmark record of 25.43 seconds, she is qualified for the Olympic B benchmark record. However, she should wait until the Korea Swimming Federation made its final decision to choose one national athlete among three candidates including Jang.

Jang was removed from the national swimming squad since she refused to enter the Olympic village just before the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. After complications, she managed to participate in the Olympic Games but she went to the United States to study in 2001. In 2004, she did not participate in the competition organized to choose national squad due to study and knee injury. While studying and getting training in the United States, Jang was selected MVP by the East Coast High School Coalition and the “Swimmer of the Year” by the Boston Globe.

Jang said, “I did my best. After participating in the women’s 100-meter freestyle on Friday, I’ll wait for the decision.”

Meanwhile, “Marine Boy” Park Tae-hwan, who is highly likely to win a medal in the Beijing Olympic Games, and Jeong Seul-gi, Korea’s best-performing female swimmer, will participate in men’s 400-meter freestyle and women’s 200-meter freestyle rehearsal games, respectively, Friday.