Olympics: 18-Year-Old South Korean Swimmer May Triumph In Beijing

SEOUL: South Korea is looking forward to winning its first gold medal in swimming at the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

Eighteen-year-old Park Tae Hwan is an inspiration not just to his Korean fans, but also to other Asian swimmers. He started making a name for himself at the 2006 Asian Games where he garnered three freestyle gold medals.

Since then, Park has been in the international spotlight, to the delight of South Koreans who entertain hopes of an Olympic gold medal in swimming.

The Beijing Games will be the second Olympic experience for Park. Four years ago, he was the youngest athlete representing South Korea in Athens, but he was disqualified in the 400-metre freestyle heat after a false start.

Four years later, he is a different person.

“I think that was a good experience for me and I am here today because of that. It’s an experience even money can’t buy. I think it has helped me grow to become what I am today. I will use that experience to help achieve good results in this Olympics,” said Park.

The athlete started swimming professionally at the age of seven under coach Noh Min Sang.

“I believe this is really a battle with himself. I tell him not to feel pressured because he is one of the youngest athletes, and I tell him that I trust him and that he will do his best,” said Noh.

Last year, Park won the admiration of Asian swimmers after winning the 400-metre freestyle event at the world championships in Melbourne, beating American and Australian competitors.

Now, he is eyeing the gold at Beijing. “I am trying to stay focused on sport and training during the time left. I will train hard and try to bring back good results,” he said.

And the world will be watching closely to see if he keeps his promise.

– CNA/so

Channel News Asia

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