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(LEAD) Park Tae-hwan wins 4th race at local meet

All News 18:48 April 28, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo, comments)

GWANGJU, April 28 (Yonhap) -- Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan won his fourth race at a local meet on Thursday.

Park captured the men's 100m freestyle race in 48.91 seconds at the 88th Dong-A Swimming Competition in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul. It was the 30th-fastest time of the season, and well short of Park's personal best of 48.42 seconds set in February 2014.

Park had earlier swept up the 1,500m, 200m and 400m freestyle titles in Gwangju in his first competitive appearance since the National Sports Festival in November 2014.

He just finished serving an 18-month international doping suspension that began retroactively in September 2014 and ended in March this year.

The Dong-A meet doubles as the second round of the national team trials for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, for which Park has been ruled ineligible by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC).

Under a KOC rule guiding the national team selection process, athletes who have served doping suspensions are banned from representing the country for three years, starting on the day their suspensions end.

The KOC, despite facing the criticism of double punishment, has repeatedly stated it wouldn't create exceptions for particular athletes. In light of Park's strong showing here, the KOC will likely come under even more pressure to amend the controversial rule.

Park's 100m time was just inside the "A" Olympic qualifying standards of 48.99 seconds set by FINA, the world swimming governing body.

Park didn't directly address the controversy surrounding his status, saying things are already out of his control.

"I did my best to prepare for this competition, and I think I've done everything I could for the people," Park said. "It's all out of my hands now. While getting ready for this meet, I felt it'd be best to keep quiet and let my records do the talking."

When asked if he would seek legal steps against the KOC's rule, Park said, "I don't know all the details because I've only concentrated on training. I don't know how things will turn out, but my agency will take care of it."

Park also dodged a question about his future beyond the Olympics if the KOC doesn't change its rule, only saying, "It's a sensitive question."

Park remains the only South Korean with an Olympic swimming medal. He won the 400m freestyle gold in 2008 and also took silver in the 200m freestyle at the same Olympics. Four years later, he won silver medals in both the 200m and 400m freestyle. Park also owns two world titles and six Asian Games gold medals.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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