Park Tae-hwan (born September 27, 1989) is a South Koreanswimmer. He is an Olympic and world champion who represents South Korea. He has four Olympic medals, two world titles, and 20 Asian Games medals under his belt. He won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle and a silver in the 200 meter freestyle events at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He also won two silver medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in 200m and 400m freestyle. He is the first Asian swimmer to claim a gold medal in men's 400 m freestyle, and the first Korean to win an Olympic medal in swimming. He is known for his impressive range and versatility, as he is able to compete at international level in 100m, 200m, 400m, and 1,500m. He is the first swimmer to swim under 49 seconds in 100m free and under 15 minutes in 1,500m. He remained as the only person to have such impressive range until Sun Yang joined the club in 2013. He was hit by a steroid scandal as prosecutors confirmed on Jan. 27 that he tested positive in a doping test because he took Nebido, a relatively new anabolic steroid.
Born in Seoul in 1989, Park graduated from Dankook University in February 2012, where he majored in physical education. His father is a saxophone player and his mother is a dancer. He currently serves as a goodwill ambassador for 'Dynamic Korea', South Korea's international image-making campaign, alongside international figure skater Kim Yuna. Park Tae-hwan is one of Asia's top men's freestyle swimmers. He was voted Most Valuable Player at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar where he won seven medals including three gold. The 22-year-old trains in Melbourne and is also a Pan Pacific Champion. He was voted Swimming World's Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year in 2006.
Park, as an Olympic and Asian Games medalist, has been granted an exemption from two years of mandatory military service, however is still required to undergo four weeks of basic training, which he reported for on 4 October 2012.
Park faced many financial difficulties as an athlete. SK Telecom had sponsored Park from 2007 to 2012 but when his contract expired in 2012, SK Telecom decided to discontinue their sponsorship. Park was left to support his own athletic career for half a year. In the same year, Korea Swimming Feredation (KSF) refused to give Park his 50 million won (approximately $44,950 USD) for winning two silver medals in the London Olympics. He will later receive this award money in 2014. In 2013, it was revealed that Park did not have a swimming pool to train in. Within Seoul, there were only 7 swimming pools with a 50m lane, the international standard. These pools were either all booked or did not fulfill basic conditions like the water temperature which made it impossible to train in. In March 2013, Park signed with the Incheon Metropolitan City’s swimming team. Park has since been receiving an annual salary from the city.
Park began swimming at the age of 5 when his doctor suggested it would be good for his asthma. He began his competitive swimming career at the age of 7, earning several medals in junior competitions. This early success led to Park's selection to the Korean Swimming Federation as a national team member in 2003. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, which was his first ever international competition, however, Park was disqualified for a false start in the preliminary heat of the men's 400 m freestyle. Park later confessed that he was so disappointed with himself about the mistake, but it motivated him to work hard on starts, and he now has one of the fastest reaction times among top elite swimmers, consistently posting under 0.70 seconds. Shortly thereafter at the 2004 Fina Swimming World Cup, Park was the runner-up in the men's 400 meter freestyle event.
Park continued his competitive success in subsequent years, most notably at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, where he won three golds, one silver and three bronze medals, the most medals won by a single athlete at the Games. He also set two Asian Records. For his success, Park was named an Athlete of the Games.
Just after a stunning victory against idol Grant Hackett in the men's 400m freestyle at the 2007 World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne, Park decided to train alone in Sydney, Australia as his own '500-day project', parting with his personal managing team in December 2007. He then joined the Korean national team training base in February 2008 to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Under Park's personal coach Roh Min-sang and other members of the coaching staff, the national team trained in Malaysia (February 2008) and Guam (May 2008) to prepare Park for his second attempt at the Olympics. He qualified for competition in the men's 200 meter, 400 meter and 1500 meter freestyle events.
At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Park won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle event and a silver medal in the 200 meter freestyle event. His winning time of 3:41.86 made him the second fastest man ever in this distance in history, only behind then-world record holder Ian Thorpe whose time was 3:40.08. In swimming 1:44.85 in the 200m freestyle final, Park joined Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe, and Pieter van den Hoogenband as the only men to have ever swum under 1:45 in the event.
Park Tae-hwan swimming in the 400-metre final at the 2012 Summer Olympics
During the 400-meter qualifying heat race, Park was initially disqualified for a false start, which was wrongfully called. Shortly after the South Korean Federation met with the FINA bureau the ruling was successfully overturned and Park was reinstated into the race. FINA was unable to explain why the judge on the pool deck called it a false start, and a FINA official called the wrong call as a "human error maybe."  He won silver in the finals of the 400-meter race.
In his third and final event, 1500 m freestyle, Park posted a South Korean record of 14:50.61, but missed the podium by a 10.3-second margin behind defending Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia.