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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2 months ago

So sappy for sato and his insane time drops but so frustrated about Watanabe not making it. I just know that he had the potential to win a medal come Olympic time.

2 months ago

Whoa !! Watanabe . That’s a shock.

2 months ago

The depth in Japanese men’s 200m breastroke is just astounding .. Chupkov would have his hands full in Tokyo

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Verram
2 months ago

I feel like they’re similarly crazy deep in other events, like the 2 fly and 4 IM?

Maybe not deep enough to leave a former WR holder off the team, but enough to like scare Hagino off from swimming some of them.

Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

I would love to get an insight on how the Japanese train. Irie, Hagino, and Seto are all 5’9”-5’11” and are who they are. When’s the last time a guy under 6’ has won an individual medal for the US?

Reply to  DCSwim
2 months ago

Probably cody miller and josh prenot, who both stand at 5’11. Dont be fooled by the Japanese swimmer’s short stature though, they all have wingspans over 6 foot, they are built for the sport.

Reply to  mileSwim
2 months ago

Okay okay I should’ve refined my question — ^besides breaststroke^ who’s medaled? Breaststroke is the “short” man’s stroke after all

Reply to  DCSwim
2 months ago

Koseki and Watanabe are both 6’3”+, so it’s actually been the tall man’s stroke of Japanese swimming

Reply to  mileSwim
2 months ago


Last edited 2 months ago by Penguin
Reply to  DCSwim
2 months ago

Erik Vendt is one that comes to mind.

Reply to  Brien
2 months ago

Watching short Erik Vendt and tall MP both go under the WR in the 400 IM is one of my favorite races of all time.

Reply to  DCSwim
2 months ago

I know. It’s incredible.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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