Park Tae-hwan Sets Eye on Next Olympics
The following is the full text of an interview with Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan at
the Korea House press center in Beijing Tuesday after he won the silver medal in the 200-meter freestyle. ― ED.
By Sunny Lee
Korea Times Correspondent
Park Tae-hwan: My main goal was to get a gold in the 400 meters, which I did. I'm more happy that I broke my previous record. I also set the Asian record. I feel quite satisfied. Many swimmers felt uneasy in the lead-up to the Games.
I will do my best in the 1,500 meters. For that I will take good care of myself. As a gold medallist, I listened to the (South) Korean anthem. It made me proud of my country. I also feel sorry for not getting a gold today. But I feel good about my record.
Park's Coach: I want to first thank Park's parents who entrusted him under my wing. I also want to congratulate Park for keeping up with the hard training regimen.
The training took five months and 10 days. I've known Park more than anyone else. And I knew he'd do well.
I've always wanted to beat a Western swimmer. Park fulfilled my dream for me.
Park: The music I listened to was something I didn't tell others about. But it was Korean music. Some dance and ballads. I listened to different songs.
Q: When did you start feeling confident?
Park: At the Dong-A Swimming Competition, I broke my record. Since then, my confidence has grown. Not just for me, but for other Korean swimmers. I also want to thank my training partners for their support. The training was tough. But overall, it was from the Dong-A that I gained confidence. And I also felt that I could break my record.
I saw (Michael) Phelps. He really did well when I saw him in training. I will do my best to catch up with him. I will have more chances to compete against him in the future.
Q: What do you tell yourself?
Park: I don't think I'm at the top. I still have a long road ahead. I will do my best. I see I'm at the beginning. I appreciate the support.
Q: Your mother said in four years, you will catch up to Phelps.
Park: I will continue training. But I think Phelps will also do his training. So, I should try twice hard as him.
I felt different today than from the 400 meters. I was a bit nervous. But also I thought that people were watching me. So, I refrained from making gestures.
After getting the gold in the 400, I felt a bit more relaxed.
Q: How do you compare yourself with Phelps?
A: Phelps is good at the 200 meters. I am good at the 400 meters. (laughter) He is good in many swimming event. But I won't further elaborate because I don't feel I'm qualified.
Q: Swimming used to be dominated by Westerners. Now, with Park's gold, do you think Westerners will look at Korea differently?
KOC President Lee Yeon-taek: On that question, I want to point out that Samaranch and other International Olympic Committee officials visited the Korea House. At that time, many foreign dignitaries recognized Park's achievement. It has raised the profile of Korean sports in the word.
Park's coach: We are focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of individual athletes, including Park's.
Q: What is Park's weakness?
Coach: Park's stamina and endurance have decreased. So we worked to raised them up.
Q: Was the training difficult? We heard the expression ``training until blood pumped out.''
Park: Actually, I didn't bleed. (Laughter). I think as an athlete, I need to build endurance. It was difficult for me. But my training partners also went through the same difficulty. I recognize their support. Yes, the training was very tough.
Q: What did you think about when things get tough?
A: I tell myself I need to do this to enhance my capacity.
Q: Some people say you're a swimming genius. What do you think?
A: Many people have said it. And I thought, what is a swimming genius? Thank you for saying that, but I don't think I deserve it. I need to work harder to fit the bill.
Q: Could you share one episode from your training?
A: Basically, all the training was tough. The test for breaking my previous record was particularly tough. But with my training partners, I was able to achieve this good record.
Q: What do you want to do first when you return to Korea?
A: I haven't returned yet. So I'll have to think about it.