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MALE ASIAN SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: DAIYA SETO, JAPAN
Japanese swimmer Daiya Seto is a critical component among a wave of national swimmers ready to make their mark on the Tokyo-hosted 2020 Olympic Games less than 2 years away. The 24-year-old dynamo is usually paired with teammate Kosuke Hagino when one thinks about elite Japanese swimming, but Seto has raced his way to impressive individual performances that put him on a pedestal all his own.
At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Seto threw down a gold medal-winning 200m fly time of 1:54.34, while he also cruised to a 400m IM bronze medal in a mark of 4:12.60.
He followed those performances up with tenacious victories at the Asian Games in Jakarta (LCM), battling to the top of the podium in both the aforementioned events. He produced a mark of 4:08.79 to take the 400m IM, while punching a time of 1:54.53 for the 200m fly. Seto’s 400m IM time remained as the #2 time in the world through the remainder of the 2017/18 season, sitting only 2nd to American Chase Kalisz’s 4:07.95 from Pan Pacs.
This fall, Seto produced some head turning performances across the World Cup circuit, focusing his participation at the 2nd cluster in Eindhoven and Budapest. Seto wound up finishing 3rd overall in that 2nd cluster after collecting an impressive World Cup Record-setting swim in the men’s 400m IM, clocking 3:57.25. That garnered the Japanese athlete a whopping 978 FINA points to move him up in the standings and come within striking distance of American Ryan Lochte’s World Record in the event.
But, the icing on the cake for Seto came in Hangzhou while competing at this year’s Short Course World Championships. Going head-to-head with reigning world champion and then-world record holder Chad Le Clos of South Africa in the 200m fly, Seto held his own and threw down a swimming masterpiece. Touching in 1:48.29, Seto earned his first-ever World Record, further demonstrating the fact that he is a dominant swimming force that is on the right trajectory towards Tokyo.
Xu Jiayu (CHN)
Xu Jiayu of China proved he is a formidable foe to the backstroking world, establishing a new World Record in the men’s SCM 100 backstroke. While competing at the World Cup in Tokyo, the 23-year-old threw down a time of 48.88 to register as a new Chinese National Record, Asian Continental Record and World Record.
Additionally this year, Xu completed a sweep of backstroke events at the Asian Games, taking the 50m/100m/200m, beating mainstay Japanese veteran Ryosuke Irie in all 3 finals.
He also set National Records of 22.70 and 1:48.32 in the 50 and 200 SCM backstrokes over the World Cup as well. Competing in Hangzhou, Xu took silver in the 100 back behind America’s Ryan Murphy.
Sun Yang (CHN)
Sun Yang, also of China, crushed a sweep of the men’s mid-distance freestyle events at this year’s Asian Games. The freestyle ace took the men’s 200 (1:45.43), 400 (3:42.92), 800 (7:48.36) as well as the 1500 in 14:58.53. He didn’t participate in the Pan Pacific Championships, but made a very impactful cameo appearance at the Short Course World Championships.
Sun joined the threesome of Ji Xinjie, Xu and Wang Shun, combining to claim the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay bronze medal in an overall time of 6:47.53. The outing finished behind winning team Brazil, who notched a World Record for gold, and Russia who earned silver. All of the top 3 teams dipped under the previous WR mark set by Russia 8 years ago.
Sun produced a game changing split of 1:41.25 to keep China on the podium.
Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN)
Yasuhiro Koseki was suspended through March of this year due to a training camp altercation in late 2017, but the 26-year-old came back strong to the tune of setting new Japanese National Records in the LCM 50 and 100 breaststroke events while competing at the Mare Nostrum in Monaco. His efforts of 26.94 and 58.78, respectively, overwrote performances on the books by the legendary Japanese Olympian Kosuke Kitajima.
Koseki went on to produce Pan Pac gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke, leading a trio of top 3 breaststrokers under a minute in 59.08.
He followed that breakout performance up with a trio of breaststroke victories at the Asian Games, highlighted by a new Games Record mark of 58.81 in the 100m sprint.
Flash forward to Hangzhou, and Koseki fired off a new National Record and Asian Record time of 56.13 in the 100m breast to take the bronze and make his mark on this year’s Short Course World Championships.