World Champion Junya Koga of Japan Relocating to Michigan

TOKYO, Japan, October 31. THE Club Wolverine postgraduate program will add a big name to their roster with the news that 2009 world champion Junya Koga will join the squad next month.

Koga, who won the 100 backstroke at the Rome world championships, told Japanese sports media outlet Yomiuri that he plans to relocate to Ann Arbor, Mich., to train with head coach Mike Bottom for the next four years. That will take him possibly to the 2016 Olympics, provided he can escape the drama of qualifying that he experienced earlier this year.

Koga finished second in the 100 backstroke in 54.14 at the Japanese Olympic Trials, a place and time that would have easily put him on just about any Olympic team in the world. But Japan instituted tougher qualifying times than the FINA A standard, times that appeared to be non-negotiable in terms of selecting the Olympic team. Koga's time was .05 seconds away from a trip to the 2012 Games. Koga would not have qualified for the Olympic final with his time from the Trials, but he said after the race that he “could not be my best form for this Trials, but almost there.”

Koga's top moment in his career came at the 2009 world championships when he won the 100 backstroke title in 52.26, which was then the fastest time in history. He would miss the chance to defend his title in 2011, placing 14th in semifinals.

Koga, now 25 years old, told Yomiuri today that he plans to move to Ann Arbor after competing in the Tokyo leg of the FINA World Cup, which runs November 6-7. That meet is a requirement for Japanese athletes on the national team, who agree to attend various meets as part of a contract with the swimming federation, similar to the Athlete Partnership Agreement in USA Swimming.

The Club Wolverine postgraduate group has seen a few top international swimmers on its roster in the past few years, including Serbia's Milorad Cavic (who trained with Bottom at UC-Berkeley and the Race Club) and China's Wu Peng.

Link to Yomuri article (in Japanese)