Stars of Asiad

(Asiad) S. Korean swimming superstar Park admits extra pressure

2014/09/21 21:39

By Kim Han-joo

INCHEON, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean swimming star Park Tae-hwan who ended up with the bronze in the men's 200m freestyle at the Asian Games Sunday, surprisingly admitted that he was burdened by the heavy weight of his home country's expectations.

Park finished the race in 1:45.85 at his namesake arena, Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center, trailing Kosuke Hagino of Japan and Sun Yang of China.

"I think I was quite nervous even before the race began since it is being held in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)," said Park, an experienced swimmer who has competed in three Olympic games and three Asiads.

Park said he felt extra pressure, not only from the home crowd and local swimming officials, but also because the state-of-the-art arena located in this western port city is named in his honor.

"I think I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders, especially about swimming in the arena named after me," the 24-year-old Park said.

Park also talked about so much media buzz on the prospect of repeating his two previous 200m Asian Games wins.

"I did not want to hear it, but there has been so much talk about winning the third straight Asian Games gold here," Park said.

Park delivered the first country's first gold in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and previously won two Asiad golds in the distance.

Park, whose every move attracts the attention of the local media, which gave him the nickname of "Marine Boy," repeatedly said he will put forth his best efforts.

"I have more races remaining and I will try to put on good performances," he said.

Park, who is slated to race in the 400m freestyle on Tuesday, said he is looking forward to going up against Sun and Hagino once again.

Hagino, largely considered an underdog in the distance, stunned Park and Sun who are national heroes in their own countries.

Park wasted his fast start in Sunday's race, falling behind Hagino over the final 50m after leading him by nearly a full second through the first 150m.

"I was on a good pace early on, but I fell off toward the end," Park said. "I was a bit concerned before the final because I wasn't at full strength during the warm-up."