Prelims of the 2016 Japanese Nationals began with some lackluster sprinting, but the athletes turned on the heat in the later events with two athletes posting times underneath the Japanase Olympic Qualifying standards.
The men’s 100-meter free kicked off day four prelims of the 2016 Japanese Nationals with Shinri Shioura leading the pack. Shioura stopped the clock at 49.05 for first, finishing not far off his second-place finish of 48.86 from last year’s nationals. Katsumi Nakamura, who owns the Japanese National Record with a 48.41, finished second in prelims with a 49.24. It is important to note that this is the second event of the meet where the Olympic Qualifying standard (48.16) is faster than the Japanese National Record (48.41).
The women followed up the men with a lackluster prelims in the 100-meter free. Miki Uchida delivered the top time of the morning with a 54.94, but has posted faster times this season, including a 54.24 at the Tokyo stop of the World Cup series.
Yayoi Matsumoto clocked a 55.75, good for second in prelims, while Chihiro Igarashi grabbed third with a 55.78. Rikako Ikee, who currently holds the Japanese National Record at a 53.99, finished sixth in prelims.
The athletes turned up the heat in the men’s 200-meter fly with Masato Sakai stopping the clock under the Japanese Olympic standard at a 1:55.37. While Sakai beat the qualifying time of 1:55.39 by .02 seconds he must replicate his performance in finals to earn a ticket to Rio. Sakai should be able to do that considering he currently owns the top time in the world for 2016 with a 1:54.57 from the Tokyo Intercollegiate Championships last September.
Daiya Seto posted the second fastest swim of the morning in the 200 fly with a 1:55.63, finishing just outside of the qualifying mark. Watch for Seto to challenge Sakai in semi’s and finals as Seto sits just behind Sakai in the world rankings with a 1:55.33.
The heat continued into the men’s 200-meter breaststroke prelims with Ippei Watanabe posting the top time of the morning under the Japanese Olympic standard of 2:09.54. Watanabe’s 2:08.83, which falls more than half a second beneath the qualifying mark, will need to be replicated to earn his ticket to Rio. That time moves Watanabe up to fourth in the world rankings behind Gabor Balog (2:01.52), Marco Koch (2:07.69), and Yasuhiro Koseki (2:08.65).
Takatoshi Ikeshita grabbed second with a time of 2:10.08, while Koseki posted a 2:10.43 for third in the prelims.
Akihiro Yamaguchi, who stands as the current World Record Holder in the event with a time of 2:07.01 from 2012, finished nineteenth in prelims with a 2:13.11 which means that he will not be returning for semi-finals.