Park Tae-hwan finds silver lining

September 25, 2014

Places 2nd in 100-meter to tie the record for the largest number of medals among Korean athletes at the Asian Games at 19. 

Park Tae-hwan stood behind China's Ning Zetao in 100-meters. (Yonhap)

Park Tae-hwan stood behind China’s Ning Zetao in 100-meters. (Yonhap)

By Baek Byung-yeul

South Korean swimming star Park Tae-hwan clinched the silver medal in the men’s 100-meter freestyle event, Thursday, failing again to avenge his failure in previous races at the Asian Games.

But it was his 19th Asiad medal, which also led him to pull into a tie with retired shooter Park Byung-taek for the largest number of medals among Korean athletes at the Asian Games.

“I have won so many medals, as I have participated in the Asiad three times,” Park said after the meet, expressing his satisfaction with the result. “I hope I will win more in the 1,500-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relay.”

On Thursday, the 2008 Olympic 400-meter freestyle champ touched in at 48.75 seconds, after Ning Zetao of China, who set an Asian record with 47.70 seconds at th Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center. Japan’s Shinri Shioura took the bronze.

The 25-year-old Korean had the second-fastest reaction time off the blocks in 0.65 seconds, but at the halfway mark, he was only in fourth place in 23.76 seconds. But he made a big push over the final stretch to go past two swimmers to win his first silver medal at Incheon.

Still, it was a disappointing result for Park, who was long thought to win gold in the three consecutive Asiads. He won six gold medals in both 2006 Doha Games and 2010 Guangzhou Games.

Along with the silver, he has only managed to win four bronzes in the men’s 200-meter, 400-meter freestyle events as well as 4×200-meter and 4×100-meter freestyle relays.

“It would be a lie, if I said I didn’t have any regrets. Tonight, I felt much better than before, and although I failed to reach my season-best, I am happy that I was better than in the preliminary races,” he said.

If Park adds one more medal in the remaining races tonight, regardless of its color, he will replace the current record of the most number of Asiad medals set by Park Byung-taek. Park participated in the Asian Games six times from 1990 to 2010 to win won five golds, eight silvers and six bronzes.

“I think tonight’s race will help me do better,” he said. “I think I’m lucky to swim in the lane next to China’s Sun Yang in the 1,500m freestyle event, and also in the relay, I hope I will be an asset to my team and help my teammates win a medal.”

The athlete who won the most medals in Asian Games is China’s legendary shooter Wang Yifu with 25 ― 14 golds, eight silvers and three bronzes ― in his participation from 1982 to 2002.