World Record Setter Akihiro Yamaguchi Announces Retirement

Photo Courtesy: Swimming Japan

Akihiro Yamaguchi, the Japanese breaststroker who held the world record in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke for more than four years, announced his retirement from the sport.

Yamaguchi announced his retirement via Instagram, posting a picture with several members of the Japanese national team – Katsumi Nakamura, Rikako Ikee, Kanako Watanabe and Chihiro Igarashi.

Yamaguchi, 26, epitomizes the depth and strength of the Japan breaststroke program, of which he briefly was on top but which prevented him from ever swimming in an Olympics.

Yamaguchi delivered his best swim just after the London Olympics, clocking in at 2:07.01 at the National Sports Festival of Japan. That swim, four days after his 18th birthday, was quicker than Daniel Gyurta went to win gold at the London Olympics (2:07.28). It held until 2017 when Yamaguchi’s countryman Ippei Watanabe downed it at 2:06.67. (Incidentally, Yamaguchi’s world record is faster by a half-second than Japanese breaststroke legend Kosuke Kitajima ever went.)

That time also qualifies as the fastest all-time swim by a junior, though it’s a non-ratified record. The current world junior record belongs to countryman Shoma Sato at 2:09.21 from 2019. Yamaguchi was the second youngest swimmer ever to set the men’s 200 breaststroke world record.

But the timing was never right for Yamaguchi to get to the Olympics. Japan sent Ippei Watanabe and Yasuhiro Koseki to the 2016 Games in the 200 breast, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. (Watanabe set the Olympic record of 2:07.22 in semifinals.) That pair also earned the 100 breast spots, Koseki finishing sixth and Watanabe not emerging from prelims.

Yamaguchi emerged on the global scene in 2011. He won the 200 breast at the World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru. He added silvers in the 50 and 100 breast and 400 medley relay. Yamaguchi finished seventh in the 200 breast at the 2013 World Championships (and 19th in the 100 breast), his only senior World Championships. Koseki and Ryo Tateishi represented Japan in the 200 breast at 2015 Worlds, with Koseki and Ippei Watanabe at 2017 Worlds. Watanabe and Kazuki Kohinata flew the flag for Japan at the 2019 World Championships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.