Stars of Asiad

(Asiad) Park relishes racing with younger rivals

2014/09/25 21:51

By Kim Han-joo

INCHEON, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's 24-year-old swimming star Park Tae-hwan, who has yet to grab any gold at the Asian Games, said Thursday he is honored to compete against young racers.

After settling for four bronzes, Park grabbed the silver in the men's 100-meter freestyle Thursday to rank behind Ning Zetao of China. Shinri Shioura of Japan took the bronze.

"I believe the race against Chinese and Japanese swimmers in the short distance will serve as a good lesson for me," Park said, referring to Ning and Shioura.

The world record in the 100m freestyle final is 46.91 seconds, set by Cesar Cielo of Brazil in 2009. Ning, 21, won the gold in 47.70, breaking his own Asian record by 0.57 second here.

"It is such a great thing that Ning Zetao broke the 48-second barrier as an Asian swimmer," Park said, adding that it is an honor to stand on the podium with Ning and Shioura.

Throughout events at Incheon, Park had repeatedly mentioned that he enjoys competing against up-and-comers, including the four-time gold medalist in Incheon, Kosuke Hagino of Japan.

Park, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Saturday, has competed in three Olympics and three world championships. Now with swimmers four to five years younger dominating races, Park feels he has to learn from his younger rivals.

"There are a lot of things that I can learn from (Hagino) even if he is young," Park said of 20-year-old Hagino.

Park also complimented long-time rival Sun Yang, the 22-year-old who beat him in the men's 400-meter freestyle on Tuesday.

"Not only is it a blessing but also an honor to race against Sun in 1500m," Park said.

Park is slated to participate in the men's 1,500m freestyle, along with Sun who grabbed the gold in the distance at the 2012 London Olympics.

On Thursday, he picked up his 19th Asiad medal to pull into a tie with a former shooter, Park Byung-taek, for most Asian Games medals by a South Korean athlete.

"I guess I've been around long enough to win so many medals," said the smiling Park, who is in his third Asiad at his age.

"I will try my best to bring home more medals in the remaining events."