Ayatsugu Hirai Takes Short Course Japanese Record In 1500 Freestyle

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

TOKYO – Last weekend’s university winter championships at the Yokohama International Pool featured a short course meters Japanese national record in the men’s 1500 freestyle by Ayatsugu Hirai.

Hirai, representing Meiji University, posted a 14:31.64 in the mile, taking down the 14:32.88 swum in November 2013 by Kosuke Hagino at a World Cup meet. That time ranks eighth globally for the 2014-2015 short course season, and would have placed Hirai sixth overall at last month’s short course world championships. His previous best was 14:42.47 from February 2014.

Hirai posted the following on Twitter after his swim:

Roughly translated, the tweet reads: “1500 in new Japanese record! 14:31!”

Hirai did not compete at the short course worlds last December. He finished 10th in the 1500 freestyle in August at the Pan Pacific championships. He was also the Japan Intercollegiate long course champion in the 1500 free with a 15:10.46.

Though Japan’s men’s team is looking strong behind the likes of Kosuke Hagino, Ryosuke Irie and Daiya Seto in the middle-distance events, the country has yet to find a distance freestyler to match wits at the international level with China’s Sun Yang. Kohei Yamamoto stands as Japan’s top distance freestyler, but Hirai appears to making strides as Japan’s prepares to select its world championship team.

Japan has never won an international medal in distance freestyle (i.e. distances of 800 meters or longer). Though Hagino owned the short course 1500 free national record, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll swim the 800 or 1500 freestyles at the world/Olympic level, given his already stacked event program.