Kosuke Hagino, Daiya Seto 200 IM Rivalry Highlight Day 5 Prelims of Japanese Nationals

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Day five of the 2016 Japanese Nationals kickstarted with the top four athletes in the men’s 200-meter backstroke posting times within the top 10 world rankings for 2016. Leading the charge was Keita Sunama who posted a time of 1:57.12, nearing his season best of 1:57.10 from February’s Japanese Intercollegiate Championships.

Ryosuke Irie, who has already earned a ticket to Rio in the 100-meter back, grabbed a close second with a 1:57.31, while Yuki Shirai rounded out the top three with a 1:57.76. All three sit within one second of the Japanese Olympic Standard of 1:56.79 and Irie holds the Japanese National Record at a 1:52.51 (2009).

The speed continued into the women’s 200-meter breaststroke with Rie Kaneto, the Japanese National Record holder in the event (2:20.04), leading the field with a 2:24.05. Sakiko Shimizu grabbed second overall with a 2:26.51.

Not to be left behind was the reigning World Champion in the 200 breast, Kanako Watanabe. Watanabe delivered a final time of 2:27.15 to earn the third place seed. The young Runa Imai lurks at fourth with a time of 2:27.76, but has the capability of going much faster after her 2:23.43 finish at the Dubai stop of the World Cup. With the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard sitting at a 2:23.21 all four sit well within reach of qualifying for Rio.

Japan unleashed an insurmountable amount of power in the men’s 200-meter IM with five athletes owning best times under 1:59. The two biggest competitors are Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, ending the morning with 1:58.88 and 1:59.40 respectively. Both sit within the top five world rankings within a slim .01 seconds separating them (Seto third with a 1:57.72 and Hagino fourth with a 1:57.73).

Add Hiromasa Fujimori’s 1:57.66 and Takeharu Fujimori’s 1:58.15 and you have four of the top five world rankings. Only Michael Phelps sits ahead with a 1:57.61. H. Fujimori and T. Fujimori finished third and fourth in prelims respectively with times of 1:59.79 and 2:00.53.

The morning session ended on a weaker note with none of the women in the 800-meter free nearing the qualifying standard. Minho Takahashi delivered the top time of the morning with an 8:41.85. Yuna Kikuchi turned in the second fastest time, stopping the clock at 8:42.62. Both women will have to work hard to clear the gap between their prelims times and that of the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 8:25.86.

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Author: Taylor Brien

Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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