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(LEAD) Reinstated swimmer Park Tae-hwan returns home from overseas training

All News 19:09 July 14, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, July 14 (Yonhap) -- Reinstated for this year's Olympics, South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan returned home Thursday from his Australian training camp.

Park recently won a legal battle to get a Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) ban lifted ahead of the Aug. 5-21 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

Last Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said the formerly banned swimmer is eligible for Rio. Previously, Park had been kept off the national team because the KOC barred athletes from competing for the country for three years after the completion of their doping suspension.

Park, who tested positive for testosterone in October 2014, served an 18-month ban that started retroactively in September 2014 and ended in March this year.

Park, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400m freestyle, will be going to his fourth Olympics. He also won silver in the 200m free in 2008, and picked up silver medals in the 200m and the 400m in 2012.

"It means a lot to me that I will be going to my fourth Olympics," Park told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "I was obviously elated when I heard the news (of the CAS decision), but time isn't on my side. I've been training hard and my goal is to keep doing the best I can until the end."

The 26-year-old entered the South Korean Olympic trials in April while still under the ban and met the Olympic qualifying times set by FINA, the international swimming governing body, in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle.

Though it remains to be seen if Park will actually contend for a medal -- he has only the season's sixth-fastest time in the 400m free, his main event -- the presence of the transcendent star is certain to raise interest in the Rio Games among South Koreans.

"I'm trying not to put pressure on myself, because I am a little behind the pack in the 400m this year," Park said of his main event. "If I can have a good race in the heat and keep at it through the finals, then hopefully it will lead to a medal."

He remains the only South Korean to have won an Olympic swimming medal.

Park will depart for Orlando, Florida, on Sunday to set up a training camp there, and will land in Rio on July 31.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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