Yui Ohashi Nails Down Olympic Bid as Japanese Trials Open With Fast Times

Yui Ohashi

Yui Ohashi Nails Down Olympic Bid as Japanese Trials Open With Fast Times

Japan started its official push toward this summer’s Olympics on Saturday, with three athletes earning tickets to the Tokyo Games. While Daiya Seto was already qualified in the individual medley events, based on his status as the reigning world champion, he was joined on his country’s Olympic roster by Yui Ohashi, Ageha Tanigawa and Yuki Ikari.

The women’s 400 individual medley was the lone event to produce a pair of Olympic qualifiers. A medalist in the event at the past two World Champs, Ohashi came away with victory in 4:35.14, which was good for a two-second triumph over Tanigawa (4:37.90). The race for second was dramatic, as Tanigawa overhauled Sakiko Shimizu (4:38.11) on the freestyle leg, in the process erasing a deficit of more than a second at the 300-meter mark.

In the men’s 400 medley, Seto – racing without pressure – covered the event in 4:09.02, which handed the Olympic-title favorite a comfortable margin over runnerup Yuki Ikari (4:11.88), the 2019 champion at the World University Games. While Ikari earned a trip to the Olympics, Tomoru Honda was third in 4:13.34, leaving him to seek Olympic qualification elsewhere in his program.

Ryo Nakajima was the victor in the 400 freestyle, clocking a time of 3:47.00, but that mark was more than a half-second off the Japan Federation-imposed qualifying standard of 3:46.34. The Federation-identified time is based on what it required to qualify for the final in the event at the 2019 World Championships.

In semifinal action, Shoma Sato claimed the top seed for the final of the 100 breaststroke, on the strength of a 59.18 performance. Better known for his ability in the 200 breaststroke, Sato put his speed on display in advancing to the final ahead of Ryuya Mura (59.54) and Ippei Watanabe (59.76). The fact that Sato looks this strong in the 100 breaststroke suggests that the world record of 2:06.12 in the 200 breast will be threatened later in the week.

The semifinals of the women’s 100 butterfly saw Suzuka Hasegawa qualify fastest for the final in 58.30, with Ai Soma (58.32) and Rikako Ikee (58.48) following. It will take a major drop for Olympic qualification, as 57.10 is the standard that needs to be met. Ikee, of course, is the feel-good story of the meet, as she continues her comeback from defeating Leukemia.

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