Today marked the 5th finals session of the 2016 Japanese Olympic Trials in Tokyo and we were treated to some thrilling races. As a testament to the fact that Japanese sprinting on both the men’s and women’s is progressively improving from year-to-year, both the men’s and women’s 100m freestyle national records were broken during tonight’s finals.
After an already history-making prelims where 12 Japanese men went sub-50 in the 100 free, tonight’s top 2 men both broke the existing Japanese National Record in the event. The previous national record holder, Katsumi Nakamura, improved upon his swift 48.53 semi swim to register a monster 48.25 to represent the fastest Japanese man of all-time. That blows away his old record of 48.41 by more than a tenth.
Right behind Nakamura in that men’s final was Shinri Shioura, who also dipped beneath the previous national record with a stellar mark of 48.35.
For the women, sprinting mainstay Miki Uchida took back her national record from 15-year-old Rikako Ikee tonight, becoming just the 2nd Japanese woman ever to clock a sub-54-second time. 53.88 is what Uchida churned out for the gold tonight, splitting 26.09/27.79. The mark puts Uchida just outside the world’s top 10 in the event this season.
Right behind was teenage phenom and former National Record Holder Ikee, who touched in 54.06 for silver, just .07 of a second off of her lifetime best of 53.99 from earlier this year.
In a phenomenon we saw recently at the French Olympic Trials, whose federation set specific Olympic-qualifying standards faster than the FINA A cuts in most cases, even with national records having been broken, the net result is zero tickets punched to Rio for the 100m freestyle event.
As fast as these men and women were tonight relative to sprinting history in Japan, neither of the top 2 men or women were able to score a mark beneath the Japanese Olympic-qualifying standards of 48.16 and 53.81 during their respective races.
Pending a subjective decision by the Japanese Swimming Federation, if that’s even something being considered, the nation of Japan is without individual male and female 100m freestyle representation in Rio at this point.