2018 Pan Pacs Previews: Ohashi Looks For Home Sweep In Women’s IMs


Japan’s Yui Ohashi will look for an IM sweep in a set of Pan Pacs events that have seen major turnover from the 2014 edition.

Not a single medalist returns in the women’s IMs from the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships: double-medalist and 200 IM champ Maya DiRado is retired, and the rest of the medalists are either retired or not competing at Pan Pacs: 400 IM champ Elizabeth Beisel, Alicia Coutts, Caitlin Leverenz, Keryn McMaster.

That opens the door for Ohashi, who is the top seed in both IMs in 2018. (Let’s clear this up up front: the 4:15.78 seed time in the 400 IM for Ye Huiyan isn’t correct. She was 4:49 at World Juniors last summer and the 4:15 looks more like a mis-entered 400 free time).

Back to Ohashi: the 22-year-old Japanese swimmer has steadily risen from an Asian champ in 2016 to last summer’s silver medalist in the 200 IM at Worlds. She’s only been 2:08.9 and a blistering 4:30.82 this season, though the latter isn’t reflected in FINA’s world ranks. Yet there are two big things working against Ohashi at this point: first, she may have a bigger focus on Asian Games, leading her to train through Pan Pacs. Second, she’s typically been better domestically than in international competition. Her best 400 IM times in the past two seasons have come from the Japan Swim meet. In 2017, she was 4:31 at Japan Swim 2017 and only 4:36 and 4:34 at Worlds. (She did, however, put up her best 200 IM time in the Worlds final).

Pan Pacs are in her home nation. But is it the venue, travel and time change affecting her world-level swims? Or the spotlight, pressure and opponents? There’s no telling quite yet, but Pan Pacs will be a great opportunity for Ohashi to break through with big international swims in both of her IM events.

Canada’s Sydney Pickrem beat Ohashi for bronze at Worlds last summer in the 400 IM and would have taken bronze in the 200 IM with her semifinals time. (She crawled out of the pool early after ‘catching some water’ during the finals of that event). Pickrem hasn’t been better than 4:41 in the 400 this year, but was 2:09.9 in the 200 and is coming off a good college season in short course yards.

The rest of the 400 field has some interesting storylines. Leah Smith was the U.S. National champ last summer, but was just fourth in 4:35.68 this year. It’s hard to tell if she was fully tapered (she didn’t really need to be to make the Pan Pacs team in distance free), so there’s a good chance Smith moves closer to her 4:33.86 from last summer. Ally McHugh was one of the breakout swimmers of U.S. Nationals, winning an upset national title in this race in 4:34.80, but she now has to rematch with Smith, Brooke Forde and Melanie Margalis to maintain the top American spot.

Ella Eastin is a very interesting case. The NCAA champ and American record-holder in short course, Eastin should have made Worlds last summer in this event had she not been DQ’d for a controversial ‘Lochte Rule’ turn at Nationals. That’s a rule that has since been relaxed by FINA after major public outcry. Eastin came down with mono this summer and focused only on the 200 IM at Nationals. It’s hard to say if another week of rest will make much difference, but Eastin may go after the 400 at Pan Pacs in hopes of making the 2019 Worlds team. If she’s healthy, she’s a gold medal contender; if not, she’s probably well out of the final in a race that’s pretty punishing for fully-primed athletes, much less ones fighting mononucleosis.

Japan has Sakiko Shimizu in the mix; she was a Worlds finalist in 2017 at 4:35.62, not far behind Ohashi at that meet. Canada has a solid group of entrants, including Commonwealths finalist Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson and Emily Overholtwho was a Pan Pacs finalist at age 16 back in 2014.

In the 200, Ohashi is again the favorite, coming off of a silver medal (2:07.91) at Worlds last summer. Bronze medalist Madisyn Cox of the U.S. is out on an anti-doping suspension, but backstroke world record-breaker Kathleen Baker has risen to the front of the nation with a 2:08.32 that currently leads the world rankings. Melanie Margalis4th at Worlds, should also be a factor after going 2:09.43 this year.

Canada is without Commonwealths silver medalist Sarah Darcel, but does bring along bronze medalist Seltenreich-Hodgson (2:11.74) to join Pickrem. Taylor Ruck is an intriguing entry. She’s been dropping time in droves this summer, but hasn’t really focused on the 200 IM. Her lifetime-best of 2:11.16 is from a Pro Swim Series meet in March, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her with a huge swim here. The flipside is that she’s got a busy schedule already, and the 200 IM final could interfere with her performance on the 4×100 free relay, so the IM may end up a late scratch.

Japan has a deep IM group behind Ohashi, including Miho Teramura (2:10.21 at Japan Swim), Kanako Watanabe (2:11.49 this year, but as fast as 2:08.45 back in 2015 while taking Worlds silver) and Sakiko Shimizu (2:11.79 this year but 2:10.5 back in 2016).

Eastin is also in the mix for the Americans here, looking to unseat one of the top two for a spot on the American World Championships team next summer. She’s been as fast as 2:10.54 in the past, and was just three tenths off that at Nationals while swimming through mono.


200 IM

Medal Name Nation Season-best Lifetime-best
Gold Yui Ohashi Japan 2:08.92 2:07.91
Silver Kathleen Baker USA 2:08.32 2:08.32
Bronze Melanie Margalis USA 2:09.43 2:08.70

400 IM

Medal Name Nation Season-best Lifetime-best
Gold Yui Ohashi Japan 4:30.82 4:30.82
Silver Sydney Pickrem Canada 4:41.12 4:32.88
Bronze Leah Smith USA 4:35.68 4:33.86

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3 years ago

Eastin 🙌🏻🙏🏻

3 years ago

Ohashi has been much faster than 4:35 this season. In fact, she went 4:30.82 for a new Japanese record just this April and she sits several seconds ahead of anyone else at #1 in the world rankings.

3 years ago

It looks like it will be insanely competitive between the 4 American women for the 2 2019 WC slots. Can’t wait to see how it all goes.

Reply to  MTK
3 years ago

*400IM I should have specified

3 years ago

0.1 nanograms per milliliter.

SumTing Wong
Reply to  RUN-DMC
3 years ago

Non FDA approved drug swishing round inn Austin water . . If they don’t detect Oxy which is at crises point then how is this drug showing up?

3 years ago

Is this start list accurate: http://swim.seiko.co.jp/en/2018/S80701/start/eng09S005.pdf?
No Pickrem in the 400IM?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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