Park wins 400m freestyle in Shanghai World Championships

South Korean swimming star Park Tae-hwan successfully retained his 400-meter freestyle crown following a fine swim at the World Championships in Shanghai on Sunday.

The 22-year-old clocked 3 minutes 42.04 seconds to win the gold medal of the event, beating Chinese rivals Sun Yang who finished second in 3:43:24.

(Yonhap News)

His time was 2.03 seconds behind the world record of 3:40:07 set by Germany’s Paul Biedermann at the 2009 World Championships. The German swimmer finished third for the bronze medal with a 3:44:14 record.

Park had a sluggish start on Sunday. He finished third in his heat and seventh overall with a 3:46:74 record, which was far behind of his personal record of 3:41:03.

However, swimming in the first lane in the final with the Chinese rival in fourth and German’s Biedermann in third, Park started brilliantly and build up to a strong finish to touch the pad first to retain his 400 m title.

At the previous championships in Rome, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist failed to make it into the finals in any race. But this year, having teamed up with Australian coach Michael Bohl, and finishing strong at the 2010 Asian Games, Park was determined to make up for his disappointing 2009 season.

Last month, he notched up three gold medals at the Santa Clara Grand Prix. In the 100-meter freestyle race, Park defeated American swim great Michael Phelps for the first time to claim the gold medal. He also won the 400 m freestyle and 200 m freestyle at the event, raising expectations ahead of the Shanghai competition.

The freestyle specialist is now looking to add medals in 100 m and 200 m races in Shanghai.

In the men’s 200 m freestyle final, which is scheduled on Tuesday, Park is expected to compete against American swimming great Michael Phelps. Former Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, who retired in 2006, is set to end his four-year hiatus and to return for the 200 m race. The 100m heat is set for Wednesday and its final is on Thursday.

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