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2014 HONOREE: KOSUKE HAGINO
Kosuke Hagino thoroughly established himself as one of if not the best all-around swimmer in the world at the moment with his stellar performances at both the Pan Pacific Championships and Asian Games that earned him multiple golds and world leading times.
The young Japanese swimmer has been experiencing success on an international stage for two years now after taking home a bronze in the 400m IM at the 2012 Olympic Games and two silvers at the 2013 World Championships.
At the 2013 World Championships Hagino displayed an extended program which featured not only the 400m freestyle and 400m IM where he medalled, but the 200m free, 100m back, 200m back, and 200m IM.
Come the start of 2014 Kosuke Hagino entered himself in the same events as he did the 2013 World Championships at the 2014 Japanese Nationals which served as the deciding factor of the national team heading into Pan Pacs.
At Nationals Hagino was on fire. He took gold in the 200m freestyle by over a full second dropping a swift 1:45.89. He showed his freestyle prowess in the 400m freestyle as well setting a new national record with a time of 3:43.90. He swam the 100 and 200 backstrokes where he placed second to backstroke star Ryosuke Irie. Hagino was quick though with a 53.08 in the 100 and a 1:54.27 in the 200.
The individual medley events were all his at trials as we grabbed the 200m IM in a new national record of 1:55.38 and backed up that performance with a 4:07.88 in the 400m IM.
It was April, and Hagino already had world leading times in several events, and fast times to boot.
A little ways down the road Hagino opted to drop out of the 100m backstroke at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast Australia, and decided to focus on the freestyles and individual medleys.
The 200m freestyle was his first event and after prelims he was seeded first with a time of 1:46.60. In finals, he finished second to Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes and took home his first medal of the meet.
The next event happened to be arguably his best, the 400m IM and once again after prelims he led although his teammate, Daiya Seto, was right on his tail just a few tenths back. Hagino rocked the 400m IM finals and finished first, separating himself on the breaststroke leg from Tyler Clary and solidifying the win. The win was over some of the world’s best swimmers as Tyler Clary, Chase Kalisz, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, and Daiya Seto who all finished behind him.
Shortly after the final he led off the silver medal winning 4x200m freestyle relay to grab his third medal of the championships.
The next day he was seeded fourth in the 400m freestyle and 5th in the 200m backstroke after prelims, however, he came back to beat Connor Jaeger with a 3:44.56 and place second to Korean rival Park Taehwan. He finished eighth in the 200m backstroke capping off the day.
With one more individual event to go Hagino won the 200m IM over Michael Phelps with a 1:56.02, a new championship record in the event.
Two weeks after the meet Hagino swam at the Japanese Intercollegiate Championships where he took home multiple golds, and even swam a few best times. He bettered his 200m IM performance from Pan Pacs with a new national record of 1:55.33. He backed up his 400m IM with a 4:09.62, bettered his 200 free to a sub 1:46 and swam a 48.76 100m freestyle lead-off.
His season was far from over however as he was slated to swim at the 2014 Asian Games as well, and once again had a very heavy schedule of events to contend with. In Incheon, South Korea he swam all the events he did at the Pan Pacs plus both backstrokes, taking home a medal in each event.
The 200m freestyle was one of his greatest wins of the Games as he took down both Chinese swimming star Sun Yang and 2014 Pan Pac 200 free winner Taehwan Park. Yang and Park led at the 150m mark but it was Hagino who turned on the gas during the last 50 and get them both with a 1:45.23 over Yang’s 1:45.28. Park finished a fair amount behind the two in 1:45.85.
He came second to Sun Yang in the 400m freestyle with a 3:44.48, almost identical to the time he swam at Pan Pacs.
His medley swims were arguably his best of the meet as he took gold in both. In the 200 he was a 1:55.34 to fall just one one-hundredth short of his new national record from the Japanese Intercollegiate Championships. In the 400 he was a 4:07.75, slightly faster than he was at Japanese Nationals in April.
He went on to take home a bronze in both backstroke events, and a gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay. He ended the meet with seven medals which included six individual ones, and four golds.
Hagino ended his year at the 2014 Short Course World Championships where he took gold in the 200m IM and silver in the 400m IM.
Hagino’s versatility and ability to swim best times and world-leading times at multiple stages during the year are what made him the key candidate for Asian male swimmer of the year. He put up world-class times at five different competitions during 2014, set numerous national records, and created an incredible medal haul to really break out onto the world stage as a swimmer who could win multiple golds.
Surely Hagino is emerging as one of the best multi-event swimmers in the world. Hagino is also just 20 years old, and has a long successful career ahead of him. He’s similar to Michael Phelps in the sense that Phelps started focusing on a multi-event program at the age of 18. Hagino, in the same range is truly beginning to start a Phelpsian-like program. With most swimmers hitting their prime around the age of 24, there’s plenty of success in store for Hagino. When some of the stars of this generation of swimming retire, it will truly be Hagino’s reign as one of the kings of multi-event swimming.
In no particular order
- Daiya Seto – Seto won two medals at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships with a victory in the 200m butterfly and the 200m IM. He was very solid at Japanese trials in early April and competed successfully with some of Japan’s top swimmers. Most recently at the 2014 Short Course World Championships he came home with two new national records including a brilliant 3:56.33 in the 400m IM and a 1:48.92 in the 200. Both swims also counted as Asian Records.
- Ning Zetao – Zetao rocked a very quick 100m freestyle to set a new Asian record in the event at the 2014 Asian Games. He was a 47.70 to win the event, which counted for one of his four gold medals. Zetao also demonstrated his sprinting prowess in the 50 free where he won in 21.95 and was also a winner of the Chinese 4x100m free and 4x100m medley relays. Recently he re-broke the Asian record with a 47.65 in the 100m freestyle at Chinese Nationals in October.
- Dimitry Balandin – Balandin was not a name people knew before the 2014 Asian Games, but following it, breaststrokers around the world added him to their radar. He came out of left field to sweep the breaststroke events at the Games for Kazakhstan. All of his swims were new games’ records and extremely impressive. In the 50 he was a 27.78, in the 100 he was a 59.92, and in the 200 where he swam one of the best races of the meet he was a wicked 2:07.67 for the win and one of the best times in the world that the season.