2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Kosuke Hagino Pulls Out of Japanese Nationals; Cites Lack of Hunger For Next Year’s Olympics

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Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Hagino of Japan said Friday he has pulled out of next month’s Japanese National Championships, blaming a “lack of hunger and triggering concerns about his appetite for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo,” according to a report from The Japan Times.

Hagino posted a lengthy written note on Instagram but it was not able for basic translation by the app. According to The Japan Times, Hagino wrote:

“I’ve been unable to achieve the results I had hoped for since the 2017 season. As the gap between my targets and reality has widened, it has become harder for me to maintain my motivation.”

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Hagino has not been the same swimmer he has been since winning the 400 IM on the first night of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, breaking the Americans’ winning streak in the event that started in 1996. Since then, he had failed to medal in the 400 IM at the 2017 World Championships, placing sixth, some six seconds off his winning time the year before. In 2018 he had the third ranked time in the world in the 400 IM with a 4:10.30, which he swam in a silver medal performance at the Asian Games.

Hagino was also the Olympic silver medalist in Rio in the 200 IM behind Michael Phelps. He won a silver in the 2017 Worlds behind American Chase Kalisz and had the fourth fastest time in the world in the 200 IM in 2018 (1:56.66).

Japan coach Norimasa Hirai admitted that Hagino was in no shape to compete at the nationals in Tokyo after skipping another local meet last month.

“In his current condition it would be really hard,” Hirai told Japanese media.

“He’s not in very good spirits. He needs to rest and when he decides to comes back, he needs to start swimming for himself.”

Hagino was one of Japan’s gold medal favorites next year at the Tokyo Olympic Games along with butterfly sensation Rikako Ikee, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia February 12.

“The ball is in his court,” said Hirai, asked when he thought Hagino would return.

“Nothing has been decided — it’s a clean slate, only he knows,” he added after Hagino’s appearance at this summer’s world championships in South Korea was also plunged into doubt.

“It’s obviously not a plus that he’s not entered the nationals. It’s a critical situation for him but he has to stay positive.”

Hagino, who also opted to miss a recent Japan training camp in Spain, added: “I’m still not mentally ready to compete at full strength. I humbly apologize to swimming fans and am prepared to accept any criticism that comes my way.”

The Japan Times helped contribute to this report.

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