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S. Korean Swimmer Park, 18, Rewarded for Hard Work
    2008-08-12 15:28:45     Xinhua
With an Olympic gold and a silver in hand, 18-year-old Park Taehwan is getting what he deserves for his hard work.

Park won the silver of men's 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday, adding to his Olympic title in the 400m freestyle, which was the first swimming gold for South Korea.

The silver was not to be diminished, considering that Park was contending with swimming phenom Phelps.

"I tried my best to prevent him from winning the gold medal, but he is a great swimmer, and I had to be satisfied with what I get," Park said after the race.

Pale-skinned but bulky, Park is the rising star in the pool. In the 2006 Doha Asian Games, he became the most decorated swimmer, winning seven medals, including three golds.

He rose to the occasion to beat childhood idol Grant Hackett in the 400 meters free at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne. And In Beijing, he is making big splashes.

Asked about his recipe for success, he shrugged off with a smile. "I am a hard worker," he said.

The Seoul native started swimming at the age of five when his father took him to the pool to help cure asthma. Over the years, his talent in swimming was greatly developed to forge remarkable endurance and pace in the water.

Park went to the Athens Games as a promising teenager, but was disqualified for an illegal start in the heats. Now he has become more mature, and learnt to put things in perspective.

"Some people are surprised that Asian swimmers have won gold and silver medals at this Olympics," he said. "It may have been different before, like at Athens. But I have made good times in competition in world championship races."

Before the Games, Park was not hesitant to show his ambition to challenge established swimmers like Phelps and Hackett.

"Whether my result is good or bad, I have the confidence. Losing confidence is the worst thing to happen to an athlete," he said.

Park has a third race to swim in the grueling 1,500 meters free, where he is off to have another face-off with Hackett.
 
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