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400 or 1,500 Meters for Park in 2012?

Posted August. 26, 2008 08:13,   


The 400 or 1,500 meters?

This question was posed to swimmer Park Tae-hwan after he won the world championship in last year by his coach Roh Min-sang in February. Park answered, "I`ll just focus on swimming."

Roh and Dr. Song Hong-sun of Korea Sports Science Institute had to decide what event Park should focus on for the Beijing Olympics, which was then five months away.

Park’s strength lied in the 1,500-meter freestyle, but he began showing a better performance in the 400-meter freestyle. Moreover, time was running out for preparing for the 1,500 meters, which requires a great deal of training like that for a marathon.

The conclusion was for Park to focus on the 400 meters and try the 1,500 meters as well. This decision was made as Park was reluctant to undergo the notorious training required for the 1,500 meters.

In April, he broke the Asian records in the 200 and 400-meter freestyle races at the Dong-A Swimming Competition in April, vindicating the decision to focus on the 400 meters and raise his chances of winning an Olympic medal.

In the Beijing Olympics, Park became the first to Korean to win a swimming gold medal. In doing so, he set the Asian record in the men’s 400 meters and won the silver in the 200 meters by also breaking the Asian mark. As expected, however, he failed to qualify for the 1,500-meter finals.

Analysts say winning both the 200 and 1,500 meters is as difficult as winning both the 100-meter sprint and marathon. It is, however, considered much easier to win both the 400 and 1,500 meters because training for each event is similar. By contrast, a swimmer in the 400 meters can hardly win the 200 meters since the 400 meters require both endurance and speed while the 200 meters need speed more than endurance.

Some 100-meter swimmers with good speeds sometimes compete in the 200 meters. Park could not guarantee a gold medal in the 200 meters since speed is critical. Even in the 400 meters, he is not certain to repeat his win in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London because there are many competitors in the event.

Coach Roh and Dr. Song regrettably said after the Olympics, “We wished that Park did better in the 1,500 meters than in the 200 meters.” That is because Park should focus on the 400 and 1,500 meters to raise his chances of winning two golds in London.

Park finished as late as two seconds behind winner Michael Phelps in the 200 meters in Beijing, and is expected to do the same four years from now.

The bottom line is that Park must focus on the 400 and 1,500 meters to emerge as a world star four years later. Given his outstanding cardiorespiratory endurance, the more appropriate event for Park is the 1,500 meters.

The issue is his determination, as he will have to endure more rigorous training. That is why Park told his coach that he wanted to focus more on the 400 meters than 1,500.

As a 19-year-old, Park enjoys a free lifestyle more than training and has captured the spotlight in both Korea and abroad. His coach and Dr. Song are thus worried about Park’s future after the Beijing Olympics.