Park Tae-hwan is eyeing a second gold medal in the 200-m freestyle after triumphing at the 400-m event at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai on Sunday.
Park, who became the first Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, did well in the heats on Monday to place fourth overall out of 16 to advance to the final.
However the results of heat 1 suggest that Park has another foe's wings to clip in the form of Frenchman Yannick Agnel, who clocked 1 minute and 45.62 seconds to edge Park (1:46.23) to second place.
The surprise winner of the semifinal was not American Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte, nor was it world record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany. It was Agnel, the reigning European champion at the 400-m freestyle who just turned 19 last month. Phelps was fifth overall with a time of 1:46.91.
Agnel rose to international prominence by beating Biedermann at last year's European Championships in the 400m. Standing 203 cm tall and weighing 80 kg, he is slim but fast in the water with a powerful rhythm. His personal best at the 200 m is 1:45.47, a feat he set in March that puts him only slightly behind Park, who won last year's Guangzhou Asian Games in a blistering time of 1:44.80.
In addition to Biedermann, Phelps and Agnel, Park will also be keeping an eye on veteran Olympian and former World Swimmer of the Year Lochte.
Given the stellar line-up, this year's 200-m race in Shanghai is expected to be one of the fiercest battles seen in the pool in recent years.
"All five [of us] are serious contenders for the title," said Park.
Park is gradually transforming himself into a sprinter after he abandoned his ambitions in the 1,500 m to focus on the shorter 200-m and 400-m events. He is smaller than most Western swimmers, but makes up for this with his balanced and well-proportioned physique -- recently buffed up by weight training.
The 200-m freestyle final is scheduled to take place at 7:02 p.m. on Tuesday.