(News Focus) After legal battle, real work begins for Park Tae-hwan
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- His legal battle to get an Olympic ban lifted may be over, but the real work will now begin for South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Friday in Lausanne, Switzerland, that Park is eligible for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Park had earlier filed an appeal at the world's top sports tribunal over a Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) ban based on Park's doping history.
Going to Rio for his fourth Olympics is obviously great news for Park, but whether he can actually win a medal is an entirely different matter.
Park is a four-time Olympic medalist. He won the 400m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and added a silver in the 200m freestyle at the same Games. Then in London four years later, Park won silver in both the 200m and 400m free.
The 400m free has been Park's forte -- he also has two world championships in that event -- but his time hasn't improved over the past four years.
Park's silver medal-winning time in London was 3:42.06, and he hasn't broken the 3:43 mark since.
He won the South Korean Olympic trials in April in 3:44.26. Then last week at the Swimming Australia Grand Prix, Park finished third in 3:49.18.
Park's personal best, and also the Korean record, is 3:41.53, which he set to win the gold medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
As it stands, Park's time at the Olympic trials is the sixth best in the world in 2016.
Mack Horton of Australia owns the fastest 400m freestyle time this year at 3:41.65. Sun Yang of China, the 2012 Olympic 400m free champion, is next with 3:43.55.
In this file photo taken on April 26, 2016, South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan checks his time after the 200m freestyle heat at the Olympic trials in Gwangju. (Yonhap)
Park is even further down the list in the 200m. His time of 1:46.31 from the Olympic trials puts him in 13th place in 2016. Sun has the fastest 100m freestyle time of the season at 1:44.82, followed by James Guy of Britain at 1:45.19.
Park's personal best is 1:44.80, set at the 2010 Asian Games. He broke the 1:45 mark just twice since -- at the 2011 world championships and the 2012 Olympics.
Between his suspension and his legal fight over the Olympic ban, Park hasn't had much time to train or compete, and he won't have much time left either to catch up on his competition.
Park's 18-month ban for doping began retroactively in September 2014 and ended in March this year. Under that suspension, he wasn't permitted to train at national facilities and was reduced to sharing a pool in Seoul with private club members for two hours a day.
Park spent about three months toward the end of last year in Osaka. And soon after his suspension ended, Park flew Down Under to begin training in earnest.
Then in May, Park trained at an arena bearing his own name, Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center in Incheon, west of Seoul, before going back to Australia in early June.
The Swimming Australia Grand Prix was his first international event since the end of his ban.
Park is scheduled to return home next Thursday and leave for Orlando, Florida, three days later to resume training for Rio with coach Duncan Todd.
In this file photo taken on May 2, 2016, South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan listens to a question during a press conference at Incheon City Hall. (Yonhap)