2021 Swammy Awards: Asian Coach of the Year, Norimasa Hirai

To see all of our 2021 Swammy Awards, click here.


Make it six straight Asian Coach of the Year Swammys for Norimasa Hirai.

The Japanese National Team Head Coach, who heads up the training group at Toyo University, made it a pretty clear-cut choice as one of his swimmers, Yui Ohashi, had an unbelievable Olympic Games on home soil.

Ohashi, who was narrowly edged out by Siobhan Haughey for Asian Female Swimmer of the Year, swept the women’s individual medley events in Tokyo, including winning the first gold medal of the Olympics for the host country in the 400 IM.

Ohashi pulled away from Americans Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger on the breaststroke leg, and then held off a late push from Weyant to win the title in 4:32.08, the first gold medal in a medley event for the Japanese women in Olympic history.

Ohashi, 26, finished off the double a few days later in the 200 IM, this time edging out two other Americans, Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, in a time of 2:08.52.

Incredibly, Ohashi’s win made it the seventh straight Olympics that the women’s IM events have been swept by the same woman.

Ohashi ended up being Japan’s lone gold medalist in the pool, with only Tomoru Honda (silver, 200 fly) reaching the podium on the men’s side.

In addition to Ohashi, Hirai also coached fellow Toyo University swimmers Kosuke Hagino, Reona Aoki and Rio Shirai to the Games.

Hagino, who retired shortly after the Games, closed out his career by placing sixth in the men’s 200 IM, while Aoki placed 19th in the women’s 100 breaststroke. Shirai contributed on the Japanese women’s 4×200 free relay that finished ninth.

Ohashi followed up the Games with a strong showing in the International Swimming League’s third season, scoring 126.5 points for the Tokyo Frog Kings across five matches while winning five times and posting the league’s fastest time in the women’s 200 IM (2:04.86).


  • Cui Dengrong (CHN) – Cui coached star pupil Zhang Yufei to a phenomenal Olympic performance in Tokyo, winning four medals including a decisive gold in the women’s 200 butterfly. Zhang broke the Olympic Record in a time of 2:03.86, winning by 1.44 seconds, and added a second gold as a member of China’s world record-breaking 800 free relay (7:40.33, splitting 1:55.66 swimming third). Zhang also won an individual silver in the women’s 100 fly (55.64), and contributed a 55.48 fly split on China’s silver medal-winning 400 mixed medley relay.
  • Shigeki Kayahara, Arena Tsukini Swim Club (JPN) – Kayahara coached Tomoru Honda to a surprise silver medal in the men’s 200 butterfly in Tokyo, the only Japanese male to make his way onto the podium. Honda came into the event as the seventh seed, dropping nearly nine-tenths from his entry time (1:54.59) to land the runner-up spot on the podium in 1:53.73.

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1 year ago


1 year ago

Yufei’s coach probably could feel hard done by not to win this one.

Ryan Murphy fanboy
1 year ago

Don’t matter Ryan Murphy better

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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