Posts Tagged ‘park tae hwan’

Thank You Park Tae Hwan For Ruining My Lap Swimming

August 12, 2012
 I’d forgotten about the small peculiarities in Korea that make life momentarily frustrating… how Koreans tend to see doorways as places to sit and relax, or to stack fragile glassware on the floor. How the Korean kids, though much better than American kids, are never taught not to snatch anything they want from anyone at all and then tear it to pieces.
But these are small things. The average Korean might run you over to get in a door before you, and then slam it in your face. But once inside that door he will give you the shirt off his back, feed you and give you his bed to sleep in for as many months as you like. Compare this to the average American, who will politely open a door for you but once you pass by jam a knife in your back, metaphorically and/or literally.
Recently I’ve gotten back into lap swimming. Korea has changed a lot when it comes to swimming. In 1997 I had every lap pool in Pusan all to myself. Koreans wouldn’t go near them. I asked my students what the problem was and they told me that Koreans are genetically incapable of swimming. I mentioned that the Japanese seemed to do pretty well in the pool and they said that it was because Japan is surrounded by water so Japanese need to swim.
I argued that Korea is surrounded by water and there are always ladies diving for clams off of Yong Do. They argued back that although Korea is surrounded by water, Koreans originally hail from the Ural-Altai, which is too cold for swimming, and that the women diving for clams were freaks of nature. I countered, then why do Koreans claim they are so genetically incapable of handling the cold, if they originally hail from Siberia? On and on it went, in the never-ending circles of every argument the world over.

Then in 2006, along came Park Tae Hwan, winning all kinds of swimming medals up and down the board. Now I can’t find a free lane anywhere. Thanks to Mr. Park, the Korean genome has mutated to allow for a more than capable capacity to swim. Every lane is packed with at least 9 people, day and night.

And they swim like they drive. Meaning that the right of way goes to the person bold enough to jump in front of the person who actually does have the right of way, and this person has to stop dead or get clobbered.  So much for keeping my heart rate up for thirty minutes.

The beach is an option but it’s too hot to swim mid-day at the beach. So occasionally I’ve attempted to swim after 6 p.m. Nowadays Korean beaches have lifeguards. According to the lifeguards, the physical qualities of Korean water change after 6 p.m.. Suddenly it becomes much more dangerous. So I get chased out of the water by lifeguards that likely swim a lot worse than I do, because in Korea swimming after 6 p.m. leads to mass drownings.

I wish Park Tae Hwan were here to dissuade them, but alas, he’s in England right now, changing more Korean genomes.

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