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2018 SWAMMY ASIAN COACH OF THE YEAR: NORIMASA HIRAI
Japan’s famed National Team coach Norimasa Hirai has earned SwimSwam’s Swammy for Asian Coach of the Year for the 2nd consecutive year, but this time he shares the honor with Takayuki Umehara of JSS Swimming School.
Known widely for having groomed Olympic champions Kosuke Kitajima and Kosuke Hagino, Hirai’s protegés Yui Ohashi and Reona Aoki have now been proving formidable forces on the international swimming scene.
As National Coach, Hirai has also had a hand in Daiya Seto‘s impressive performances this year, while his Seto’s personal coach Takayuki Umehara was on-hand in Hangzhou during Seto’s breakout swim.
Most recently at the 2018 Short Course World Championships, Seto smashed the 200 fly World Record, beating defending World Champion Chad Le Clos of South Africa in the process. Seto produced a new WR, Asian Record and Japanese National Record of 1:48.24 en route to gold.
Seto won the 200m fly at the Pan Pacific Championships as well, while also taking 200m fly/400m IM gold at the Asian Games. In Hangzhou, Seto would also notch 400m IM gold to follow-up on his World Record.
For Ohashi’s part, the 23-year-old doubled gold in the 200m and 400m IM at the Pan Pacific Championships, after also topping the 400m IM podium in Jakarta at this summer’s Asian Games.
Aoki took bronze in the 100m breast at Pan Pacs and was also a multiple medal winner in Jakarta.
Another stud in Hirai’s stable, reigning 200m breaststroke World Record holder Ippei Watanabe, took gold in his signature event at the Pan Pacific Championships, while also nabbing a trio of silvers in Jakarta.
- Sun Yang was a man on a mission at the 2018 Asian Games, reaping gold across the men’s 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events as a hint of what may come to pass in Tokyo 2020. His coach, Zhu Zhigen, to whom Sun returned earlier this year, spoke at the FINA Coaches Golden Clinic and stressed the pair’s focus on technique and altitude training.
- With Rikako Ikee‘s massive year, including multiple Japanese National Records, a 100m fly Pan Pacs gold medal, as well as an Asian Games MVP, her coach Jiro Miki has helped transition the once junior athlete into a bona fide Olympic medal contender. Ikee’s performance in Jakarta was highlighted by 8 medals, including a massive 6 golds, earning her the first-ever female MVP award.