Disclaimer: Blueseventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The blueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
It’s been a summer loaded with swimming action, from U.S. Nationals to the European Championships to Pan Pacs to Asian Games to Junior Pan Pacs. But through all of it, you won’t see a more exciting relay race than the men’s medley at the 2018 Asian Games.
China and Japan took the race right down to the 400th meter, both coming up under previous national and Asian records while well outperforming any other medleys in the world this year.
It was a race filled with surprises, starting in the opening leg. China led off with Xu Jiayu, the second-fastest 100 backstroker in history and one of just three men to ever break 52 seconds. But Japan’s Ryosuke Irie upset Xu to take the early lead, going 52.53 to Xu’s 52.60. Irie’s time, incredibly, was identical to his silver medal-winning time from the individual 100 back, while Xu was about three tenths slower than he was individually.
On breaststroke, Japan had 100 breast champ Yasuhiro Koseki, while China swam silver medalist Yan Zibei. Again, Japan came up with a slight edge: Koseki was 58.45 and Yan 58.86, with both men putting up great splits that were rougly four tenths faster than their individual swims.
China pretty much erased the lead, though, on Li Zhuhao‘s excellent exchange off of Yan. Li crushed his walls to split 50.61, eight tenths faster than he was while winning silver individually. But Japan’s Yuki Kobori outperformed his individual swim by seven tenths, splitting 51.06 (he was 51.77 to win silver in the 100 fly), and Japan maintained its lead by just .03 seconds.
With both relays coming up extremely clutch in the moment, it was only fitting that the finish featured a pair of 47.9s when no one in the individual 100 free final even broke 48.7. Japan had gone 1-2 in that event with Shinri Shioura (48.71) and Katsumi Nakamura (48.72) while China only got bronze out of Yu Hexin‘s 48.88. But Yu blasted a 47.92, battling to the finish with Shioura, the gold medalist. Shioura himself split an excellent 47.99, but it wasn’t enough, as China nabbed a last-leg comeback win in 3:29.99. Japan was 3:30.03.
Both times were national records. China broke Japan’s former Asian record of 3:30.19 from last summer. The times also outpace the United States, which has won every major medley relay medal in recent memory. The U.S. was 3:30.20 at Pan Pacs, and Australia 3:30.25.
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