Japanese Long Course Nationals: Junya Koga Sets Surprising Asian Record

By Hideki Mochizuki, Swimming World Japanese Correspondent

HAMAMATSU, Japan, April 17. SEVERAL more records took a hit during the second day of swimming at the Japanese Long Course National Championships, including one of the fastest men's 100 backstrokes of all time.

In the morning heats, two Asian records were broken. Ken Takakuwa swam the men's 400 IM in 4:12.56 to crush the former record of 4:14.79 set by Jiro Miki back in 2004. The other fell in the men's 100 back as Junya Koga touched in 53.55 to break the previous record of 53.69 set by Junichi Miyashita at the Beijing Olympics.

Following the morning swim, Koga once again scorched the men's 100 back during finals with a 52.87 – the third-fastest outing of all time. He went out in 25.62, and is now a challenger to Aaron Peirsol's world record of 52.54 set at the Beijing Olympics.

"I did not expect to break 53 seconds," Koga said. "I knew that [Ryosuke] Irie was coming from behind, so that helped to keep the pace. Koga is a senior at Waseda University, and his previous personal best had been a 54.54 coming into the meet. Irie finished second with a 53.19, which lowered his personal best from 53.93.

In the first event during finals, Ryoji Sononaka broke the Japanese record in the men's 1500 free with a time of 15:04.91. That effort beat the 15:06.28 marked by Takeshi Matsuda at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne.

"I cannot fight against the world unless I beat the Japanese record." Sononaka said after the race. "My next goal is to become the first Japanese man to beat the 15:00 barrier."

Takakuwa came out in the men's 400 IM to beat his Asian record of 4:12.56 from prelims with a top time of 4:12.41 to win the title at night.

In the women's 100 back, Aya Terakawa won the race in 59.67 while Hanae Itoh finished second in 59.86. Terakawa could not hold back the tears as she finally broke a recent long slump in the pool.

"After changing my training environment, I was certainly shooting for revenge." Terakawa said after the race.

Terakawa changed her coach to Norimasa Hirai three months ago. Hirai is best known for coaching Japanese legend Kosuke Kitajima.

Shiho Sakai, who set the short course world record with a 56.15 at the Japan Open in February, unexpectedly finished third in 1:00.09 and will not compete in the event at the World Championships in Rome. Japan's long-standing ace in the event, Reiko Nakamura, retired after the Beijing Games.

Yui Miyamoto won the women's 200 fly for the first time with a 2:07.56. Miyamoto was ranked fifth in the event in 2008 with a 2:08.43. The Japanese national-record holder Yuko Nakanishi is not participating this year.

In the men's 200 fly final, Olympic medalist Takeshi Matsuda took the race out in record pace with a 54.24 at the 100, and touched in 1:23.73 at the 150 mark, but could not hold onto the pace with a 1:53.87 for the win. His Japanese record, posted at the Beijing Games, is a 1:52.97.

Haruka Ueda won the women's 200 free in 1:58.32, which is considered mediocre for her.

"My race just wasn't there," Ueda said. "My hope is 1:55, so three seconds away is not good. I will try to have a good race again at the Japan Open in June."

Syo Uchida completed the evening in the men's 200 free with a time of 1:46.88 for the win. He had to track down Syogo Hihara, who took second in 1:47.25. Uchida trailed Hihara, 52.69 to 53.41, at the 100-meter mark.

"I knew I was swimming from behind," Uchida said. "It was close, but I hoped I could catch up. That is my personal best, so I feel good."

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