Japan Open: Shiho Sakai Notches World Record, Many Other National Records Fall Including American Record from Peter Vanderkaay

By Hideki Mochizuki, Swimming World Japanese Correspondent

TOKYO, Japan, February 22. WHILE the crown jewel of the weekend undoubtedly was Shiho Sakai's world record in the women's 100 back, plenty of other record-book rewriting took place during the final day of the short course meter Japan Open held in Tokyo.

Sakai definitely earned top billing with a world-record time of 56.15 in the women's 100 back. She had some company as China's Gao Chang ripped off a second-place time of 56.96 in the event.

Sakai's swim beat her national record of 56.70 set earlier this month, while also eclipsing the world record time of 56.51 set by Natalie Coughlin at the 2007 World Cup stop in Singapore.

Comparative splits:
Sakai: 27.23, 56.15 (28.93)
Coughlin: 27.54, 56.51 (28.97)

Sakai is 18 years old and is a high school senior who swims for the Bridgestone Swim Club.

"I still cannot believe this is real," Sakai told Swimming World. "But, I swam 56 seconds two weeks ago, so I realized that I would be close to the record before the race. Obviously, this feat would not have been possible without assistance from many people. I will work hard, especially on my underwater kick."

Sweden's Therese Alshammar began the second evening with a quick 52.71 to win the women's 100 free. The time was not far off her national record of 52.17 set in 2000. Meanwhile, Haruka Ueda took second in a Japanese record of 53.41.

"I have been training down in Sydney since January, and it has been going well," Alshammar told Swimming World. "My memory of the Beijing Games was not good, so I needed to move on. I will do my best to swim long course in Europe this summer so that I am selected to compete in Rome."

"I have been training down in Sydney since January and it has been doing good. My memory at the Beijing Games was not good so I need to move on. I will do my best to swim in long course in Europe in this summer to be selected for Rome."

Makoto Itoh followed with a Japanese record in the men's 100 free when he hit the wall in 47.54. The swim eclipsed the former record of 48.11 set by Satou Hisayoshi in 2008. Meanwhile, Chen Zuo took second in 47.72 for China to break the national record of 48.05 set by Cai Li in 2005.

In the 50 breaststroke events, Jade Edmistone of Australia won the sprint event among the women in 30.49.

"My husband and family were so helpful after I came back from cancer treatment," Edmistone told Swimming World. "I will focus on the 50 only at the moment while shooting for Rome."

In a bit of an upset, Hiromasa Sakimoto touched out world-record holder Cameron van der Burgh, 27.21, to 27.24, to win the men's 50 breast. Sakimoto just missed the Japanese record of 27.14, while van der Burgh was well off his global standard of 25.94.

"I am trying to change myself from a 50-meter short course guy into a guy that can swim in the 50-meter pool in the 100 and 200s," van der Burgh told Swimming World about his recent visit with Kosuke Kitajima's coach Nori Hirai. "I am working on strokes and taking an efficiency position in the water. So, my time is not important here. Kosuke has been my idle in that sense, and I want to absorb more from his techniques."

Following Sakai's world record in the women's 100 back, Syohei Uchida smashed the Japanese record in the men's 100 back with a 51.08. Tomomi Morita held the previous standard with a 51.55 set in 2007. Ryosuke Irie touched second with a 51.31, also under the former record.

The next event featured another Japanese record as Asami Kitagawa hit the wall in 2:07.84 in the women's 200 IM. That swim blasted Kitagawa's previous best of 2:09.44 set last month in Tokyo. Hidemasa Sano also took down a Japanese record, this time in the men's 200 IM, with a time of 1:54.92. That performance lowered his previous top time of 1:55.77 set last year at this meet.

Jiao Liuyang kept the national records tumbling as she hit the wall in 56.88 in the women's 100 fly for China. She became the first woman from China to break the 57-second barrier as the previous record had been a 57.60 set by Zhou Yafei in 2007.

Next, Ryo Takayasu dropped the hammer in the men's 100 fly with a time of 50.28. That swim bettered his previous record of 50.55 set last year.

The record-breaking finally took a breather in the women's 400 free when Japan's Yurie Yano touched out compatriot Sakiko Nakamura, 4:05.52 to 4:05.64, in the women's 400 free. The race just served as an intermission in the drama as China's Zhang Lin and American Peter Vanderkaay nearly pushed each other to a world-record performance.

Zhang overtook Vanderkaay in the final 50 with a touch-out triumph of 3:34.66 to 3:34.81. Both swims came up just short of Grant Hackett's global standard of 3:34.58 set in 2002. Zhang's readout demolished the Chinese record of 3:41.42 that he set back in 2006, while Vanderkaay's time obliterated the American record of 3:40.66 set by Chad Carvin in 2000. Notably, Takeshi Matsuda set the Japanese record with a fourth-place 3:39.91. He'd owned the old record with a 3:41.86 set last year.

"I was shooting for the world record, but my tapering just did not go right," Zhang told Swimming World. "It was close, so that is a pity."

The world-record bonus at the meet was 2 million Japanese yen, or about $22,000 U.S.

Rie Kanetou picked off her preliminary Japanese record of 2:19.76 in the women's 200 breast with a time of 2:18.64. Nanaka Tamura joined her under the previous standard with a second-place 2:19.52.

"I was not good at short course swimming in the past," Kanetou told Swimming World. "But, this will be good momentum heading into the Japanese Nationals in two months. That's when I will against shoot for the long course Japanese record and eventually a medal in Rome."

Ryo Tateishi closed the curtains on an exciting 2009 edition of the Japan Open with a final Japanese record in the men's 200 breast. Tateishi checked in with a 2:03.80 that smashed a Kitajima record of 2:04.96 set in 2007. Kyousuke Yonehara also cleared the former record with a second-place 2:04.93.

"Compared to yesterday's 100, I settled down in the 200 as it can get really difficult in pacing," Tateishi told Swimming World. "I still don't know how to say that I have cut more than a second from Kitajima's record."

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