Day 1 of the 2012 Japanese Olympic Swimming Trials kicked off Monday evening at the Tatsumi International Pool, and they kicked off with a vengance. In typical Japanese fashion, the swimmers wasted no time racing hard very early in the season and putting up monster times.
Men’s 400 IM – Final
The first Olympic spots were awarded in the men’s 400 IM where it was a Kosuke taking the win, a National Record, and number-one in the World Rankings. But not that Kosuke, rather it was 17-year old Kosuke Hagino who took down the National Record with a 4:10.26 to win. That took down the mark of 4:11.98 that Yuya Horihata set at last year’s World Championships, and move Hagino to 7th-fastest on the all-time list. This swim is, in fact, five-tenths faster than the great Michael Phelps was going at the same age, and is the fastest a 17-year old has ever been in the race, anywhere in the world. It’s improbable that Hagino has another 7-second improvement in him for his career to get as fast as Phelps did, but he’s clearly still getting better.
Horihata took second in this race, and also dipped under his old National Record easily with a 4:10.52. That stoned out another 17-year old Daiya Seto, who was 3rd in 4:12.66, and now ranks 6th in the world.
Men’s 400 Free – Final
The Japanese teenagers continued to be extremely fast at this championship, as another 94-born athlete won the men’s 400 free: Fumiya Hidaka. His winning mark was 3:48.21, which is just under the FINA Automatic qualifying time. He was actually faster in the race at last September’s post-Worlds national Championships, so he could have some room to drop in this race come London.
The runner-up was Youhei Takiguchi in 3:50.18.
Women’s 400 IM – Finals
A full National Record didn’t go down in the women’s 400 IM, but Miyu Ohtsuka did take down the Junior National Record with a 4:36.64 victory. Despite where women’s IM’ing is trending world-wide, Ohtsuka bucks the trend as she’s got a huge front-half to her race, and then does her best to hang on through the breaststroke and freestyle legs.
Her countrymate Miho Takahashi does just the opposite, and that took her to 2nd-place, and an Olympic berth of her own, in 4:37.71.
Women’s 400 Free – Finals
The one race on the final of the day where there wasn’t a big standout performance was this women’s 400 free (though more young swimmers swam very well), but Asami Chida did give quite a race as she blowed to a big closing 50 meters (30.3) to overtake Aya Takano by times of 4:10.72-4:10.74, making up almost a full second in the last length.
Japan hasn’t had even a halfway-decent women’s distance swimmer in at least half-a-decade, so those two will still have big roles to play in bringing that group back to the level where most of Japan’s swimming organization is headed.
Men’s 100 Breast – Semifinals
Kosuke Kitajima is feeling the heat in the breaststrokes, where Japanese Swimming has become extremely strong. He isn’t letting that heat phase him one bit however, at least not through the semi-final, as he posted a 59.31 to take the top seed into finals – that’s the fastest time in the World in 2012, and better than anyone but Alexander Dale Oen’s world-title-winning time from Shanghai over the past two years.
But much as we saw from him last year both at Worlds Trials and the World Championships, holding everything together for finals is not necessarily a guarantee. He’s got Ryo Tateishi chasing him, who went a 1:00.04 in the semifinals.
Also finaling in this loaded race (the top 13 were all under 1:02, and it took a 1:01.39 to final) is 200-meter specialist Naoya Tomita in 1:01.13.
Women’s 100 Fly – Semifinals
Yuka Katou took the top seed in the women’s 100 fly with a 58.23. She’s the National Record holder in the race, and should get into the 57-second range in Tuesday’s final. Tomoyo Fukuda took 2nd in 58.98, with Nao Kobayashi just .05 behind in 59.03. Those two will be fighting to give the Japanese a second automatic qualifying time for the Olympics.