MONTREAL • Just seven months ago, South Korean swimmer Park Tae Hwan bowed and knelt in regret for doping, apologised and begged for a chance to compete in the Rio Olympics.
The 27-year-old was eventually allowed to take part in the August Games, but he returned home empty-handed, only to vow that he would be back stronger.
On Sunday, he kept his promise by making a big splash at the Fina World Championships (short-course) pool in Windsor, Ontario with his third gold medal, marking his long-awaited return to the world stage.
Park is the first Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal after he won gold in the 400m freestyle in Beijing in 2008. In March, he completed an 18-month ban imposed by world governing body Fina after testing positive for testosterone ahead of the 2014 Asian Games.
But he was then given an additional three-year ban by the Korean Olympic Committee, effectively ruling him out of the Rio Olympics.
Park took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ultimately cleared him, deeming him eligible to participate in Brazil.
Following the Rio Games, he also competed in the South Korean National Sports Festival and the Asian Swimming Championships, where he won a total of six gold medals and one bronze.
The South Korean claimed more gold on Sunday at the world championship meet, after he won the 1,500m freestyle to add to the 200m and 400m crowns earlier in the week.
The victories enabled Park to finish the year on a triumphant note after a tumultuous season.
Park finished well clear of his rivals in 14min 15.51sec, ahead of Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri, who clocked 14:21.94 for silver and Poland's Wojciech Wojdak, who took bronze in 14:25.37.
"I had a good finish in a good time. The gold medal, it's just amazing. I'm so happy tonight," Park said. "Tonight, and also the 400 and the 200... this world championships short course is a good opportunity for me.
"So maybe next year I think I can (continue) a good race."
Katinka Hosszu brought the curtain down on a week of dominance by clinching her seventh gold medal of the meet.
The Hungarian swimming star surged to victory in the 100m butterfly, touching the wall in 55.12sec and taking gold ahead of Kelsi Worrell of the United States (55.22) and Japan's Rikako Ikee 55.64.
The 27-year-old Hosszu had already stamped her class on the championships with wins in the 100m, 200m and 400m medley as well as the 200m butterfly and 100m and 200m backstroke.
Sunday's final win at the WFCU Centre completed a phenomenal 2016 for Hosszu, who took three golds at the Rio Olympics.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE