Updated With Video: 19-Yr-Old Shoma Sato Unleashes 2:06.40 200 Breast


Entering this 2021 Japan Swim, the meet which represents the nation’s sole Olympic-qualifying opportunity, we knew that the men’s 200m breaststroke would be good. But 19-year-old Shoma Sato exceeded anyone’s expectations by firing off a new lifetime best and Japanese national record-setting effort of 2:06.40 tonight in Tokyo.

Prior to this highly-anticipated showdown, Sato had already proven he’s a viable Olympic medal contender, putting up the #1 time in the world this season in a super quick 2:06.78. That outing alone fell just .11 outside of Ippei Watanabe‘s Japanese standard of 2:06.67, a time that once represented the world record.

However, Sato turned it on big-time tonight, dropping another .38 to check-in with that 2:06.40, becoming the #2 performer all-time in the process. His result sits only behind the current World Record of 2:06.12 set by Russia’s Anton Chupkov at the 2019 FINA World Championships.

Top LCM 200 Breaststroke Performers All-Time:

  1. Anton Chupkov (RUS) – 2:06.12, 2019
  2. Shoma Sato (JPN) – 2:06.40, 2021
  3. Matt Wilson (AUS) – 2:06.67, 2019
  4. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) – 2:06.67, 2017
  5. Arno Kamminga (NED) – 2:06.85, 2020

Splits for Sato’s extremely impressive showing checked in as 1:00.89/1:05.51 to get the job done and qualify for a home-based Games.

Joining him in qualifying was Ryuya Mura, the 2017 World University Games swimmer who just put up the swim of his life to capture the 2nd Olympic slot in 2:07.58.

Entering this meet, Mura’s career-quickest was pointed at the 2:08.15 he logged just last December. However, he let the field know he meant business by capturing the top seed out of the semi-finals, last night stopping the clocking 2:08.08 to land lane 4.

With Mura’s runner-up position, shockingly, left off the Olympic roster entirely now is former World Record holder Ippei Watanabe. The 24-year-old who took bronze in this event at the 2019 FINA World Championships missed the mark tonight, placing 3rd in 2:08.30. That time not only rendered him off the podium, but it also didn’t meet the aforementioned 2:08.28 QT.

Watanabe’s being shut out is very surprising, considering he owned the previous NR and WR of 2:06.67 and already posted a huge season-best of 2:07.08 to sit as the 3rd fastest swimmer in the world entering this meet. We’ll find out if Watanabe is suffering from some kind of injury or sickness or if the man simply had an off-race.


Season Rankings:

2020-2021 LCM Men 200 Breast

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1 year ago

Honestly Sato would be my favorite to win the gold. Nobody else is putting out these sub 2:07 swims at the rate and consistency that he is. He also seems to be good under pressure, and can turn it on when it counts the most.

Reply to  mileSwim
1 year ago

That point on pressure is a big one. Japan has a notorious issue with being hit or miss with athletes performing under pressure. Some, like kitajima and Hagino have embraced it, while others, like Koseki and Watanabe, have seemed to underperform under high pressure. I remember growing up in japan that the “Japanese athletes are bad under pressure” steryotype was so big that our own books would say it. All that being said seeing athletes like sato embracing the pressure is very exciting.

Mr Piano
1 year ago

America definitely has some competition!

Reply to  Mr Piano
1 year ago

Unless Reece Whitley rips up a monster swim at trials, i don’t see any of the American swimmers doing exceptionally well in the 200 at the Olympics. (I don’t think Miller, Cordes and Prenot have a chance real good chance to medal and roy still seems to have room to grow)

1 year ago

The Japanese like their torture events… 200 fly, 400 IM, 200 breast. So much depth in those events!

Last edited 1 year ago by FST
Reply to  FST
1 year ago

Also their favorite event in athletics is the marathon, where they have crazy depth …

Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Those Seiko touchpads, starting blocks, and timing system look nice.

A$AP Pocky
1 year ago

Japan is ready

1 year ago

No. He’s too old.

1 year ago

If i remember correctly Sato was beaten by Matheny at junior worlds just roughly one and a half years ago?

Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Yeah, and I read his instagram caption on his post about that race. He said something about beating Matheny the next time he met him. Sato is hungry for victory and that is probably why he has been pushing himself.

Reply to  Khachaturian
1 year ago

Yeah, he seems incredibly motivated, great athlete

1 year ago

Kamminga the favorite for bronze now? Don’t see anyone touching Chupkov or Sato, but the battle for bronze could be interesting between Kamminga, the two australian guys and maybe some others.

Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

I’d think that Matthew Wilson would be right up there with Chupkov and Sato

Reply to  chinnychenchen
1 year ago

I don’t know why you got downvoted that’s not out of the realm of possibility.

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