Kosuke Hagino Scorches 200 IM Field, Moves To First In World Rankings

Photo Courtesy: Tobiuo Japan

Day five finals of the 2016 Japanese Nationals proved to be a session for the books with Kosuke Hagino rocketing to the top of the world rankings and the Japanese men showing their sprint prowess.

Keita Sunama continued to hold the lead in the men’s 200-meter back in semi-finals, dropping his prelims swim of 1:57.12 down to a 1:56.43. Sunama’s time falls under the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 1:56.79 but he will have to replicate his performance in finals to claim a spot at Rio.

Ryosuke Irie, the Japanese National Record holder in the event, posted a 1:57.05 to maintain his spot at second on the leaderboard. Irie, who has already been under the qualifying standard with a 1:55.42, will look to drop more time in finals.

The women’s 200-meter breaststroke semis continued to pick up speed as Rie Kaneto held onto first with a mark of 2:21.05. Kaneto currently sits atop the world rankings with a 2:20.04, also the Japanese National Record in the event, and will have to bring the speed once again tomorrow in finals to hold her spot underneath the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 2:23.21.

Sakiko Shimizu posted the second fastest time of the evening with a 2:24.73, improving upon her prelims time 2:26.51 by close to two seconds. The young Runa Imai remains relentless having inched up to third with a 2:24.85, while 2015’s World Champion in this event, Kanako Watanabe, sits ever so close at fourth with a 2:25.27.

Kosuke Hagino stunned the men’s 200-meter IM field with a dynamite time of 1:55.98 to not only maintain his spot at the top of the leaderboard, but also to rocket himself to first in the world rankings for 2016. Hagino’s time sits a shy .18 seconds off Ryan Lochte’s winning time from the 2015 World Championships in Kazan.

His home-country rival, Daiya Seto, continued to sit at second with a time of 1:59.16. Seto will need to turn up the heat in finals if he wishes to not only swim under the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 1:58.02, but also if he is going to hold off the likes of Hiromasa Fujimori (1:59.57) and Takehura Fujimori (1:59.70).

After a dynamic 200 IM from the men, the pool was lit up by the men’s 100-meter freestyle where the top two finishers swam underneath the previous Japanese National Record of 48.41. Katsumi Nakamura dashed to a sizzling 48.25 to not only blow the record away but also to make him the fastest Japanese man in the event ever.

Not to be left behind was Shinri Shioura who powered to a final time of 48.35 to also stop the clock underneath the former Japanese National Record. Despite the fast times by Nakamura and Shioura neither were able to dip below the Japanese Olympic qualifying time of 48.16 leaving Japan without a representative in the men’s 100 free currently.

The women turned up the heat in the 100-meter free finals with Miki Uchida uncorking a new Japanese National Record. Uchida re-claimed her National Record from 15-year-old Rikako Ikee, who had set it previously at a 53.99. Uchida stopped the clock at 53.88 to become the second woman ever in Japanese history to swim under the 54-second mark.

Ikee slipped to second with a final time of 54.06, just off her lifetime best of 53.99, while third went to Yayoi Matsumoto and her time of 54.43. Similar to the men, none of the women posted times under the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 53.81 leaving Japan without any 100 freestylers for Rio currently.

After dueling with Hagino in the men’s 200-meter IM, Seto had a moment of reprieve when he topped the finals of the men’s 200-meter fly with a sizzling 1:54.14. Seto’s time was not only under the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 1:55.39, but also sits as the top time in the world rankings for 2016.

Joining Seto in the men’s 200 fly in Rio will be Masato Sakai who stopped the clock at a mark of 1:54.21 to qualify. This will be the 20-year-old’s first Olympic experience.

The session ended on a high note with two more athletes punching their tickets to Rio in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke finals. Yasuhiro Koseki finished more than a second ahead of the competition to win the event with a time of 2:08.14, well under the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 2:09.54. Koseki’s time rockets him to second in the world rankings, behind only Marco Koch (2:07.69).

Joining him in Rio will be Ippei Watanabe who ducked under the qualifying standard with a final time of 2:09.45. Watanabe currently sits at fourth in the world rankings for 2016 having delivered a time of 2:08.83 earlier in the meet.

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Author: Taylor Brien

Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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