South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan could square off against American great Michael Phelps in a California meet this June, swimming officials here said Friday.
The Korea Swimming Federation and the sports division of SK Telecom, which manages Park, said the 21-year-old is set to enter the Santa Clara International Grand Prix in California starting June 16. The event is the seventh and final leg of the 2010-11 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series.
Officials said it will be Park’s tune-up meet before the FINA World Aquatics Championships in July in Shanghai, China.
Phelps, a 14-time Olympic gold medalist, is also expected to enter Santa Clara, along with another American star, Ryan Lochte.
Officials said Park made a last-minute scheduling change to have a chance to compete against Phelps. He had initially been set to race at a U.S. event during May. But officials said Michael Bohl, Park’s Australian coach, decided to enter his pupil in Santa Clara with Phelps and other stars also expected to compete.
The last meeting between Park and Phelps came during the 2009 world championships. In the first semifinal heat of the men’s 200-meter freestyle, Park finished only fifth and missed the final, while Phelps won the heat and went on to take silver medal.
A year earlier at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps won the gold in 200m free and Park took the silver. In Beijing, Park won the 400m freestyle to become the first South Korean with an Olympic swimming title.
Park will race in the 200m and 400m freestyle events. Phelps, who also competes in the individual medley, butterfly and relay events, is expected to enter the 200m freestyle. The 200m free is scheduled for June 18.
Park has not raced since the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, last November, when he won three titles and seven medals overall.
Phelps is in form, after sweeping up five titles at the Indianapolis Grand Prix earlier this month.
In the 200m freestyle, Phelps finished first at 1 minute, 46.27 seconds, the fastest time by anyone in 2011. But that’s still behind Park’s 200m winning time of 1:44.80 from Guangzhou.
Phelps’ personal best in that distance is 1:42.96, set in his gold medal race at Beijing. The world record is 1:42.00 by Paul Biedermann of Germany.
Park is currently training with Bohl in Brisbane. He is scheduled to come home on April 2 for a week-long break and travel to Australia again for another month.