By Hideki Mochizuki
TOKYO, Japan, March 3. THE 48th Japan Short Course Nationals (the Japan Open) began today at Tatsumi International Aquatic Center in Tokyo for two days of competition. The championships will also serve for final preparation of the Japan National Team heading to the World Championships in Melbourne. Among foreign swimmers, only Therese Alshammar (SWE) and Jade Edmistone (AUS) were the winners of their event.
From the Japan National Team, 32 swimmers were selected for Melbourne and 31 of them are competing in this meet. In the first day, there were some good results. Ai Shibata who won the gold medal at Athens Games 800m freestyle in 8:13.34 with a short course Japanese record vanishing Sachiko Yamada's old record of 8:13.35.
"I could focus well on the race today and got out pretty fast," Shibata said after the race. "I was a bit tired heading into the race, but generally am in good shape for the World Championships."
Ryuichi Shibata in men's 200m butterfly also broke the Japanese record with a swift 1:51.30 breaking his own record of 1:52.58. His splits were 25.40, 52.96, 1:21.32.
"I did not know how close I was to the world record (1:50.73 set by France's Frank Esposito in 2002)," Ryuichi Shibata said. "It is getting closer now."
Yuko Nakanishi also smashed her own Japanese record touching the pad with 2:04.21 in the women's 200 fly.
"Oh, I missed [the world record of 2:04.04 set by China's Yu Yang in 2004]," Nakanishi said right after the race. "I was definitely shooting for the world record. In the race, I felt that it was really, really close."
Any swimmer who establishes a world record at the event is due two million Japanese yen by a meet sponsor, which is around $17,000 U.S.
Backstroke specialist, Tomomi Morita renewed two old Japanese records in the 50m and 200m backstroke, 24.05 and 1:53.41 respectively.
Kosuke Kitajima won easily in men;s 100m breaststroke with the time of 58.34. 50m split was 27.66.
"Definitely, this time is not satisfactory," Kitajima said. "It was better than the morning heat in many aspects but so far away from my personal best (57.95). I just want to finish this meet with a good feeling before heading to Melbourne."