Reality of Olympic Trials: Junya Koga Missed Olympic Berth

By Hideki Mochizuki, Swimming World Japanese correspondent

TOKYO, Japan, April 4. BITTER is sometimes an understatement in Olympic Trials. Only this meet demonstrates that the third-place finisher could be as bad as last. In Japan, in Day Two of Japanese Olympic Trials tonight, even second-place finisher faces the hardest moment, not beating the Japanese standard time to qualify for the Olympic Team. Junya Koga, former world champion in men's 100m backstroke from 2009 World Championships in Rome, experienced almost nightmare when he finished second in the men's 100m backstroke final with time of 54.14. The qualifying standard was 54.09. His challenge for London Games is over now. It is tough, but the sentiment of swimmers are all the same globally. This is the reality of the Olympic Trials. In tears at the end of the interview, Koga had guts to express his feeling to the swimming world, hoping that other swimmers could learn from him.

Junya Koga:

“It was five hundredths of a second between my time and the qualifying standard. I knew I could not be my best form for this Trials, but almost there. I really think I did not have a good connection to the Olympic Games (Koga missed Olympic berth in 2008).

“I just tried to be on the team and tried hard to calm myself in first 50 meters. It was just a bit lacking something … just a bit really, but this is what Olympic Trials is all about. Before Trials, I got so anxious about myself and could not eat at all. The 100m backstroke is my best event, and only event that I entered, so now my challenge is over. Just remember my effort from last four years since Beijing Olympic Trials where I missed the team, I feel something was lacking. There are two personalities in me right now — one speaking to me “That's it. Let's quit.” The other telling me “Well, you can do more for another four years.” It is really difficult to summarize myself now.

“Now, (Ryosuke) Irie is the sole member for 100m back from Japan, so I wish him best luck. I understand that it is difficult to have a truly perfect race, but certainly I have something that I could not give out all in the most important race, which is frustrating.

“Come to think about it, inside me, mental state was not stable. I did not have much left after prelims and semi-finals. In the end of the day, it was critical to me that I go out fast (turning at 26.35) but I could not. When I won this event in Rome 2009, it was very well balanced mental and fitness. I could not bring up myself to where I feel I am really good at. I knew I could go at least 53-low but I could not. I feel I was losing to myself even before the race.”

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