Exclusive: Interview with Yoji Suzuki, Japan’s National Swim Team Head Coach

By Takahisa Ide

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Aug. 18. TAKAHISA Ide of Swimming World Magazine caught up with Japan’s National Swim Team head coach Yoji Suzuki at the 2006 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia.

SWM.com: What are your goals for the Beijing Games?
Suzuki: We are looking to step up this Pan Pacs for Beijing Games. Also, we hope to get better than eight medals at Beijing, the eight was the most medals for Japan swimming. But, we have to develop the men’s freestyle events, because we need medals from the 400 medley relay.

Where do you think Kosuke Kitajima is right now? Is there a concern that he will not get back to the Olympic-medal level by Beijing?
Kosuke Kitajima had a lot of problems with his knees and sickness in this season, but he is looking to race with Brendan Hansen at this meet. Also, he is using this meet as a pre-race for the 2007 World Championships.

Do you feel like the recent development of men's breaststrokers in Japan has strengthened the competition levels in the event?
The big reason we have improved is Kosuke Kitajima. Japanese breaststrokers have analyzed Kosuke's stroke and kicking techniques. That's why we got the recent development from our men’s breaststrokers. Japanese breaststrokers do not have enough power yet, so we had good result in the 200 breaststroke.

What are your thoughts on Yuko Nakanishi's performance in the 200 fly last night?
Yuko Nakanishi had a great race last night! We think that race will be good for her next step. She was always trying to get third place in this event, but now she can look for a more high level.

Do you feel like the Japanese depth is as strong as it has ever been right now?
We have great women in the 200 back that has three swimmers that are under 2:10. Also, we have great men in the 200 Fly, with three swimmers under 1:56. Yesterday, Takashi Yamamoto, who was second at Athens, missed finals, because he was behind Takeshi Matsuda and Ryuichi Shibata.

What are your thoughts about Hanae Ito upsetting Natalie Coughlin in the 100 backstroke last night?
Hanae was lucky, in Japanese "Tanakara Botamochi!!" [a rough translation is someone sitting under a shelf waiting for food to fall into your open mouth]. Natalie lost speed during the last 25 meters, but (Ito) had great race, also that time is her personal-best time. Now, Hanae believes she can race Natalie.

Are there any developing stars within the youth ranks that you have your eye on?
We have two great teenagers, Yurie Yano and Ryosuke Irie. These will be developing stars for Japan swimming!!

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