Extra! Korea

July 28, 2009

Park Tae-hwan sinks at World Championships; blame the swimsuit

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 6:36 am

Park Tae-hwan failed to advance to the swimming finals of neither the 400-meter or the 200-meter freestyle at the World Championships in Rome, despite having won an Olympic gold and Worlds silver medal in those respective events. So what happened?

Some experts blamed Park for refusing to wear the new high-end swimsuits considered the best on the market now.

Contrary to the craze for the polyurethane suits, credited with shortening the world records, the South Korean insisted on going with what he has. Among the competitors, Park was the only one who wore the outdated swim pants that exposed his bare torso.

Wait a minute. I don’t know for sure, but since he was swimming “with what he has,” I’m assuming that it’s either the same suit that he wore at the Olympics or a similar one. Those polyurethane suits were being used back then, too. Are they trying to blame the suit? Also, isn’t Korea a high-tech powerhouse? Surely the country that rules World of Warcraft could make a decent suit for its star swimmer.

Park signed a lucrative contract with SK Telecom, the biggest telecommunication firm in South Korea, in October last year after his success at the Olympics. He has trained separately with an SK Telecom special team organized just for him, separately from the national team.

[ snip ]

[T]here was no swimming expert to manage Park’s exercise schedule or health conditions in SK Telecom’s special team. Many say Park needed a personal coach.

[ snip ]

A month before the world championships, Park returned to the national sports training center. The national squad’s head coach, Roh Min-sang, said in Rome that by that stage it was too late to fully prepare him for the world event.

That sounds like a much more sensible explanation: Being treated like a superstar, instead of training with other national team members. And no swimming expert on SK’s special team? Since it had no swimming expert nor national swim team members, who the heck was on this “special” team? Comedians? Actually, that may not be so far-fetched …

The gold medalist has also spent considerable time shooting TV commercials and appearing in talk shows since the Olympics.

I can see him losing some of his focus after being hit on the head with a rubber mallet on one of those brain-rottingly stupid comedy shows.

“I felt the pressure more than I did in Beijing. It was difficult to cope with the attention and the expectation of the South Korean people,” Park told reporters. “I was nervous when I raced. I can’t believe that I was eliminated (in the 400 meter event).”

At that high level of competition, where victory is measured in slivers of a second, frame of mind certainly comes into play.

Park has one last chance to medal, at the 1,500 meter freestyle on Saturday.

Hopefully, he learns from his mistakes, as opposed to my students, who promptly throw their corrected tests into the trash bin.


  1. You might be right about the reasons Park didn’t do well, but there is more to the suit issue than you’ve covered. These aren’t the same suits worn in Beijing, but new ones developed in a type of “suit war”, and there’s been a lot of controversy over whether or not they should be banned – and some were for a short time. There have been a lot of new world records using them so it seems they do give a distinct advantege, but anyway FINA will ban them from next year. Some other swimmers are also not wearing the new suits for various reasons – it’s been claimed that they are “technological doping”.

    Comment by Rob — July 28, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  2. […] criticizing the new swimsuits Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 2:33 am When I wrote this previous blog entry, I sarcastically poked fun at Park Tae-hwan’s handlers in blaming Park’s losses at the […]

    Pingback by Michael Phelps and his coach joins Park Tae-hwan’s handlers in criticizing the new swimsuits « Extra! Korea — July 29, 2009 @ 2:33 am

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