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Marine Boy Park Tae-hwan Sets New Record

Posted April. 19, 2008 05:47,   


“Nice to see you.”

He was bright. He said hello to everybody. He even greeted the reporters who have been annoyingly following him. It all showed he was confident.

Korea’s best-performing swimmer, “Marine Boy” Park Tae-hwan gained his confidence back. Park set a new Asian record of 3:43:59 in men’s 400-meter freestyle at the 80th Dong-A Swimming Competition. The sports event, co-hosted by the Dong-A Ilbo and the Korea Swimming Federation and co-sponsored by Kyobo Life Insurance and Arena Sports, was held at the Munsu Indoor Swimming Pool in Ulsan, Friday.

Park won the competition, breaking his former Asian record of 3:44:30 set at the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne, by 0.71 second. Considering this year’s global ranking, Park is only second to Australia’s Grant Hackett who set a record of 3:43:15 last month. In men’s 400-meter freestyle, Australia’s Ian Thorpe, also known as “Human Torpedo,” set the world’s record of 3:40:08 in 2002.

Park, who has continued to fail to better his personal best since last year, raised possibilities that Korea could win its first medal in swimming in the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, with his record-setting performance.

In fact, Park has not been successful after winning a 400-meter freestyle competition at the World Championships last year. However, he has changed a lot since February when he entered the Taeneung Athletes Village and began harsh training with Coach Roh Min-sang, who is leading Korea’s national swimming squad. Roh has been a swimming teacher of Park since childhood. Park swam 15,000 meters everyday and conducted weight training and setting-up exercises. Park said, “I could win the competition thanks to Roh.” Considering that Park has no match in Korea, Roh had Park train along with Pi Seung-yeop, Korea’s best swimmer among high-school students, and Bae Jun-mo, Korea’s best adult swimmer. Park was aided by Bae`s quick start and kept his record pace because behind him, Pi`s strong spurt at the end allowed Park to finish strong.

Park now has a goal of shortening his record to less than 3:40:00 before the opening of the Beijing Olympics in August since he has to reach the world’s record for the gold medal. Roh said, “Park set a new Asian record when his physical condition reached around 90 percent. Given that, he can cut the record by three more seconds if he does his best.”

Park said, “I had a hard time since others have been worried that I might not get a medal in the Beijing Olympics. But, I am now relieved. I will do my best and show good performances at the Olympics.”

Meanwhile, Korea’s most promising female swimmer Jeong Seul-gi set a new competition record of 2:25:07 in the female college students’ 200-meter breaststroke. Jeong Da-rae also set a new competition record of 2:28:60 in the female high school students’ 200-meter breaststroke.