Park Tae-hwan settles for another bronze

September 23, 2014
South Korea's Park Tae-hwan  stands on the podium with his bronze medal following the men's 400-meter freestyle relay final at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea,  Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan stands on the podium with his bronze medal following the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay final at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

INCHEON (Yonhap) — South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan settled for another bronze medal in the men’s 400-meter freestyle race on Tuesday.

Park finished the race in 3:48.33, falling behind Sun Yang of China and Kosuke Hagino of Japan. Park came up short of winning his third straight Asian Games gold in this distance.

Sun won his first gold medal in Incheon with 3:43.23, and Hagino finished second with 3:44.48.

Park’s next individual race will be the 100-meter freestyle on Thursday.

This was Park’s third bronze of the Asiad and second in individual races. In Sunday’s 200-meter freestyle, he came in third behind Hagino and Sun.

Park had the fastest reaction time off the blocks with 0.68 second, but Hagino quickly charged out in front.

The race quickly turned into a three-horse battle. Sun claimed the lead at the half-way point in 1:51.86, with Hagino and Park trailing. Then Park overtook the Japanese at the 250m turn and maintained his lead over Hagino until the 300m mark.

The South Korean, though, badly fell off the pace after that. He touched the 350m mark in 3:19.94, more than three seconds behind Sun and almost two seconds back of Hagino.

Sun, the 2012 Olympic champion in this distance, covered his final 50m in 26.44 to hold off Hagino, who failed to become the first athlete in this Asiad to win four gold medals.

Park’s lap time over the final 50m was a mediocre 28.39.

Park, 24, entered the Asian Games with the world’s fastest time in the 400m freestyle in 2014 with 3:43.15, set at the Pan Pacific Championships last month.

The apologetic Park said he was exhausted both mentally and physically after the 200m final.

“I kept pace with the other guys early on but just didn’t have it at the end” Park said.

As he did after the 200m race, Park said he was overwhelmed by the pressure of competing before home fans in an arena bearing his name, Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center.

“I was fine a couple of days before the race,” he said. “If I had just done what I usually do in practice, my time would have been better than this. But I think the weight of expectations really got to me. It’s something I should have overcome, but it was too difficult.”

 

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