Park Tae-hwan (born September 27, 1989) is a South Korean competitive swimmer who is an Olympic gold medalist and world champion. He has four Olympic medals, two world titles, and 20 Asian Games medals. 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 the 200- and 400-meter freestyle. He is the first Asian swimmer to claim a gold medal in the men's 400-meter 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 100-, 200-, 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle. He is the first swimmer to swim under 49 seconds in 100-meter freestyle and under 15 minutes in 1,500-meter freestyle. 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 January 27, 2015 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 October 4, 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 Federation (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 50-meter 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-meter 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 of a second. 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.
Park won triple gold at the FINA Swimming World Cup 2007 in Berlin. This was his third consecutive triple crown after bringing three golds home in the third leg of the Cup in Sydney and another three in the fifth in Stockholm. Park's record in the 200-meter freestyle is threatening the world record of 1:41.10 set by Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe in February 2000. 
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, 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 200-meter 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
Men's 200 m freestyle
Men's 400 m freestyle
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-meter 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.
Tae Hwan Park became the first man to ever win the 400-meter free Pan Pacs title three straight times (2006, 2010, 2014) as he put up a 3:43.15 in the finale. Not only is Park the first to win the title three straight times with titles in 2006 and 2010, he’s also the first three-time winner period. He broke a tie with Ian Thorpe (1999, 2002) with his victory tonight.
Park, a national icon who remains the only South Korean with an Olympic swimming gold, had previously argued that a Seoul-based doctor named Kim had given him an injection without fully disclosing that it could contain a banned substance. The doctor was later indicted on charges of professional negligence and will stand trial next month. FINA also stripped Park of all medals earned after September 3. The suspension cost Park six medals he captured at the Incheon Asian Games, when all swimming races were held at an arena bearing Park's name. Three of those medals came in relays, and Park's teammates in those races will lose their medals because of Park's suspension.