Tokyo Olympics: Inbee Park healthy, relaxed as she looks for repeat gold

By Sports Desk August 02, 2021

Five years ago, Inbee Park was not sure she would even be healthy enough to compete at the Rio Olympics. 

The LPGA star had battled a thumb injury throughout the year and would end up skipping three of the tour's five majors, but she made representing South Korea a top priority and it paid off. 

Park nearly went wire-to-wire to win gold, sitting a stroke back of the lead after one round and moving ahead to stay the following day before winning by five strokes over New Zealand's Lydia Ko. 

Looking back on that experience heading into the Tokyo Games, Park said on Monday she feels much more relaxed. 

"[In] 2016 I felt the most pressure in my life. I don’t think I could do that once again," Park said. 

"It’s definitely much better and much more relaxing this year because my conditions are not as bad as in 2016, where I had to deal with injuries and a lot of pressure."

She knew how many people were counting on her then as golf returned to the Olympic programme for the first time in more than a century, and the opportunity inspired her to push through the pain. 

“I was representing the country and going through the injury," she said. "It wasn’t like a normal tournament where if you don’t feel well, you just pull out and play well in the next event.

"I really wanted to play well and didn’t want to withdraw from the tournament because of the injury. I was just trying really hard to fight the injury.

“With the injury, a lot of people got worried. My family, staff, and probably the whole of Korea was worried that I was not in the best condition.

"That was kind of the pressure I was dealing with. To overcome that was really hard.

“I think that kind of pressure gave me the power to overcome a lot of the stuff, and being able to win gold was amazing.”

Park's quest to repeat begins on Wednesday at 8:41 am local time, when she will open Olympic play in a grouping with Ko and 2016 bronze medallist Feng Shanshan of China. 

She said she watched last week's men's tournament on television to try and get a feel for the course, then got in some practice Sunday and founded it firmer and longer than she had expected. 

However it plays later this week, she expects a difficult test but feels she is in a good position to handle it this time around. 

“I’m very excited to be here representing the country twice in a row," she said.

"It’s the biggest honour for me. [To be] here in Tokyo five years after Rio, it’s truly a dream come true for me."

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