OSKAKA, Japan, December 11. RYOSUKE Irie is making the move to Australia to intensify his training in preparation for 2013, when he'll face tough domestic and international rivals in the backstroke events.
Irie, who won three medals at the London Olympics, will head to Brisbane in January to train at the St. Peters Western Swim Club with head coach Michael Bohl, according to an article on Yahoo Japan. Bohl has worked with Korea's Park Tae-Hwan for about five years, and was responsible for bringing Australians Stephanie Rice and Leisel Jones gold medals in the 2008 Olympics.
Irie, 22, said the new training environment will stimulate his motivation for the 2016 Olympics, where he said his main goal is winning gold. He came close to that goal in London, placing second in the 200 backstroke. He also won a bronze in the 100 back and silver in the 400 medley relay.
Irie will be a force in the backstroke events at next summer's world championships, but he will have some stiff competition at the Japanese trials in April just to get on the world championship team. Teenagers Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto have been improving rapidly in the 200 backstroke this fall, with Hagino poised to be the biggest threat with his 1:55.74 from last August. And don't forget about Kazuki Watanabe, who finished sixth in the Olympic final.
Irie's domestic competition in the 100 back could come from Junya Koga, who relocated to Michigan recently in an effort to regain the form that won him the world title in the 100 back in 2009. Koga just missed making Japan's 2012 Olympic team.
Irie will still enjoy some comforts of Japan at his new training base, since he will be staying with a Japanese host family in Brisbane.
The news of Irie's move to Australia seems to contradict initial reports that Swimming Australia was placing a ban on foreign swimmers training with the country's top coaches, as was reported in September when Denis Cotterell was supposedly told to end his relationship with China's Sun Yang. Cotterell has since denied such claims, and continues to work with Sun on a regular basis.
Special thanks to Takahisa Ide for contributing to this article.