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Coach Reinvigorates Park Tae-hwan`s Passion for Swimming

Coach Reinvigorates Park Tae-hwan`s Passion for Swimming

Posted July. 29, 2010 15:25,   


Olympic champion swimmer Park Tae-hwan was all smiles Friday after completing the 200-meter freestyle at the MBC Cup, his first domestic tournament in 21 months.

Comparing his performance at the competition with that of last year’s world championships in Rome, the 21-year-old said, “I don’t want to think about last year. I’ve matured far more in all aspects. More than anything, swimming has become fun for me. I’m very grateful to train with someone who has made swimming fun for me again.”

That “someone” is Park’s Australian coach Michael Ball.

Ball is more than a mentor to Park. Upon returning to Korea July 9 after completing three months of training in Australia, the swimmer said, “The biggest achievement from the latest training session was that I came to enjoy swimming anew. Coach Ball must be a gift sent to me.”

Park fell into a slump after winning the gold medal in the men’s 400 meters at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Because he had no immediate goal, he said he no longer found swimming fun, so his disappointing showing in Rome was inevitable.

Ball made swimming fun for Park again at a time when he even considered quitting the sport. Just how effective the training was will come out at the November Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, but Korea’s top swimmer’s newfound passion for swimming is itself a success.

The most important thing foreign coaches have done to develop Korean sports is to change and enhance athletes’ mindsets. All of them have helped players overcome their deep-rooted mentality of losing.

Foreign coaches also instill a “can-do” spirit within the Korean public as well as in athletes. Guus Hiddink confidently said he felt no shame even after the national soccer team suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to France at the Confederations Cup in May 2001.

The Dutch coach later led the Taegeuk Warriors to the semifinals at the 2002 World Cup. Despite widespread skepticism among fans, he kept stimulating the latent potential of the national team to rewrite the history of Korean soccer.

Most foreign coaches of Korean athletes and teams have also been high-profile coaches or athletes. Brian Orser, the coach of Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, won silver medals in the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics.

Dubbed “Mr. Triple Axel” while active as a figure skater, Orser met Kim in May 2006. Her dream to win the Olympic gold medal became his dream since she was his first disciple, and her sense of the sport and technique matured under Orser’s tutelage.