Park-Sun rivalry to test 400m record

Sun Yang is geared to lower the world record in his Olympic duel with Asian rival Park Tae-Hwan in the 400m freestyle at the London Games, his Australian coach Denis Cotterell said Thursday.

The Asian superstars are the two top-ranked swimmers heading into Saturday's showdown as Sun bids to become the first Chinese Olympic men's champion swimmer, while Park defends his crown.

Park, a two-time 400m world champion, also has taken the Australian route to the London Olympics, working out under Michael Bohl in Brisbane, and has never been beaten by Sun in international competition.

"(Park) is my idol, but I'm not scared at all of him. I'm better than before. Both my coach and I feel I'm stronger," Sun said.

Cotterell, the former mentor to retired Olympic great Grant Hackett, divides his time on Australia's Gold Coast between coaching Sun and the Australian squad, and believes Saturday's 400m race will be a classic.

"The 400m is one of the highlights of the Olympic Games. It's a classic race with two super competitors," Cotterell said.

"We know the result that we need, we have a plan and it's up to him to execute the plan."

Cotterell, a renowned taskmaster, said Sun, at 20 two years younger than Park, is capable of beating German Paul Biedermann's supersuit-assisted 3:40.07 world record to finish in front of the Korean.

"Our training has prepared him to do that but, at the Olympic Games, the primary thing is to win, the time is secondary," he said.

Sun's top-ranked time of 3:42.31 is almost two seconds faster than Park's best this year, but Bohl knows what Park has to do to overcome Sun again.

"What we're going to do with Park in the next five days is to make sure he's keeping himself relaxed," said Bohl, who also coaches Australia's triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice.

Park, whose best time is 3:41.53, says he is more concerned about breaking the world record than beating Sun.

"This isn't about a competition with Sun," Park told a South Korean newspaper.

"What I think is more important is to win the record battle with myself."

Park is aiming to become only the third swimmer, and the first non-Australian, to retain his crown in the 400m event, after Murray Rose (1956/1960) and Ian Thorpe (2000/2004).

The Korean brought his country its first Olympic gold in swimming in the 400m four years ago in Beijing.

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