By Hideki Mochizuki
TOKYO, April 19. THE 2004 Japnese National Championships, which also serves as that nation's Olympic Trials, are set to begin tomorrow in Tokyo’s Tatsumi International Aquatic Center, and will run through April 25.
This year, the Japanese Swimming Federation has set very tough, but clearer, standards to select its Olympic team than in the past. This change resulted from the turmoil four years ago when Suzu Chiba, a likely Olympic medalist, was not selected for the team. No satisfactory explanation was ever offered by Japanese swimming authorities for keeping Chiba off the team. Despite being sick at the 2000 Trials Chiba,won the 200m freestyle in 2:00.54.
Chiba brought the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the first time in Japanese sports history a case had been brought before the international sport court. Although CAS ruled against Chiba, it advised the Japanese federation to set clearer standards and to make them public before future Trials.
In general, the changes in the selection process this time have been accepted by swimmers and coaches. The standards are very high: faster than the official Olympic qualifying standards and, in some cases, quicker than current Japanese records. Beginning tomorrow we will learn whether or not this is an effective strategy.
The following are the Japanese time standards to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Swimmers equaling or bettering these times and finishing first or second at the Trials, will automatically be selected for the team (with the exception of relays).