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SHANGHAI, China, July 24. MOST of the world had been banking on China's Sun Yang having a breakout meet and quite possibly winning the men's 400 free gold, but South Korea's Tae Hwan Park had other ideas tonight at the FINA World Long Course Championships.
Swimming in lane one, Park tallied a time of 3:42.04 to win the middle distance event going away. The time is just off Park's lifetime best of 3:41.53 from the 2010 Asian Games, and now stands 15th on the all-time performances list. The win returned the world title to Park, who won in 2007 but was not seen on the podium in 2009.
Park crushed the field in the 300-350 meter mark, with a 27.82 split, to leave no doubt who would win the race. He then dropped a 26.43 on the final lap.
"I was glad to swim in Lane 1, which allowed me to fully concentrate on my own tempo and not to get distracted from the competition," Park said
Meanwhile, Sun settled for silver with a 3:43.24, while defending champion Paul Biedermann of Germany took bronze with a 3:44.14.
"My favorite event is the 1500m," Sun said. "But it's a pity to surrender the gold medal to Tae Hwan Park in the 400m freestyle. Maybe it's because I've never had the heats and the final within one day. Normally he is faster in the first 200m and I can do better in the last 200m. But today it's strange that nobody wants to take the lead in the 200m. And Park was in Lane 1, so it's hard for the other swimmers to notice him. Anyway, it is my first time to win a silver medal in the World Championships so I'm satisfied. It's really a breakthrough for me."
"After the first 200 meters I knew Park would win, so I just tried to compete with Sun Yang," Biedermann said. "At first, I thought the last 20 meters would be mine but Sun caught up. I felt the pressure about defending the championship, but when in the water, the pressure was gone, and I just focused on the competition and felt excited."
Biedermann downed the legendary Ian Thorpe world record by .01 seconds during his victory in 2009, but the time occurred in a techsuit. Biedermann was asked about this again this year.
"Yes, of course, the suit may help many other guys in the water, but I can handle it this year," Biedermann said.
USA's Peter Vanderkaay (3:44.83), Canada's Ryan Cochrane (3:45.17), France's Yannick Agnel (3:45.24), Tunisia's Ous Mellouli (3:45.31) and France's Sebastien Rouault (3:47.66) completed the championship field.
"It is a really good swim," Vanderkaay said. "This is an important experience for me, because this is my first world championships final. I enjoyed it very much."