Calling Tokyo: 19-Yr-Old Shoma Sato Scorches 2:06.78 200 Breast

2021 KOSUKE KITAJIMA CUP

Japan’s Shoma Sato just became the world’s 4th fastest 200m breaststroker of all-time.

While competing on day 3 of the 2021 Kosuke Kitajima Cup, an annual competition known to render some eye-popping performances, Sato fired off a monster personal best of 2:06.78 to take the men’s 200m breast title.

The outing shaved .24 off of Sato’s previous lifetime best, which sat at the menacing 2:07.02 the teen already threw down this season at last October’s Japan Student Championships. That previous PB rendered Sato already among the best-ever as the 6th fastest performer all-time.

After capturing the top seed this morning in Tokyo with a solid heats swim of 2:08.25, Sato got to work in the final, splitting 1:01.18/1:05.60 to produce the 2:06.78 near-national record-breaking swim. Sato’s performance tonight falls just .11 outside of Ippei Watanabe‘s Japanese standard of 2:06.67, a time that once represented the World Record.

With his 2:06.78, Sato, who just turned 19 last November, now joins an exclusive club of sub-2:07 performers, with the only other members being as follows to comprise the top 5 performers all-time:

  1. Anton Chupkov (RUS) – 2:06.12, 2019
  2. Matt Wilson (AUS) – 2:06.67, 2019
  3. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) – 2:06.67, 2017
  4. Shoma Sato (JPN) – 2:06.78, 2021
  5. Arno Kamminga (NED) – 2:06.85, 2020

Sato also overtakes Kamminga, who put up his 2:06.85 just last month, as the top swimmer in the world this season. But what does it tell us about the massive talent in this event that the top 2 swimmers at this point in pre-Olympic time are both 2:06? For extra reading, take a look at our analysis of the men’s 200m breaststroke over the last decade here.

2020-2021 LCM Men 200 Breast

ShomaJPN
Sato
02/07
2:06.74
2Arno
Kamminga
NED2:06.8512/04
3Ippei
Watanabe
JPN2:07.0812/06
4Anton
Chupkov
RUS2:07.3210/28
5Kirill
Prigoda
RUS2:07.8510/03
View Top 26»

The all-time top 5 performers are all active and vying for Olympic glory, which means we’re bound to see a potentially history-making set of prelims/semifinals/finals come this summer’s Olympic Games.

Before that, however, it very well may take a near-World Record to even make it onto the Japanese squad in this event, with Sato, Watanabe, Yasuhiro Koseki and others fighting for the two open Olympic roster spots up for the taking at April’s Japan Swim.

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H1H2
1 month ago

A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES

AnEn
Reply to  H1H2
1 month ago

New? After his time from last October he already had to be a serious medal contender.

crk
Reply to  H1H2
1 month ago

Not really new, but Japanese selection/trials is going to be super competitive (assuming Koseki Performs better than he has been)

M d e
1 month ago

Men’s 200 Brst is getting stupid.

crazy deep, easily the most competitive event in world swimming right now.

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

Men’s 2 free has regressed swims from 20 years ago

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

You could say that for everything over 100 meters. What happened in the last 20 years — Phelps and then Dressel. Phelps did the 200 free so he could be on relays — it was like his 6th best event (he made the Olympic team in the 200 back once, but scratched it). Kids coming up in the last 20 years are emulating them. Hence the Milaks, Luca’s, Carson Fosters, etc. In 10 years they’ll all be swimming Dressel events.

AnEn
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

Based on what? Here are the times it took to make it into the semifinal/final and onto the podium at the 2000 olympics:
Semifinal: 1:50.11
Final: 1:48.79
Podium: 1:46.65

At the 2019 world championships it took 1:47.06 to make the semifinal, 1:45.76 to make the final and 1:45.63 to make the podium. Realistically it will probably take 1:46.5 or faster to make the semifinal, 1:45 low to final and sub 1:45 to medal in Tokyo. The event has gotten far better depth-wise over the last 20 years. The level at the top has improved much less, but it is nonsense to say that it has regressed. At least for me it also isn’t too surprising that the… Read more »

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

And 2019 was the first time a 1:45 high could be left out of final at a World championships.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

It really depends on how you define competitive.
If it means a large number of potential competitors for gold or medal, I think 200 free is more competitive than 200 breast.
If it means a large number of swimmers with potential to push the limit (WRs), then 200 breast is more competitive.

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

Absolutely, emphatically agree with you there.

I was talking about the top times. Mens 2 free has totally stalled out. Ian Thorpes 2001 swim is faster than most recent swims barring Rapsys and Sun Yang.

I reckon in a year or two someone, cough Kieran, will come along and Dressel the 2 free pushing far past the 1:44 mid barrier

Swimdude
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

You’re right that there’s multiple contenders in the 2 free, but the big difference is that it’ll only take a 1:44 mid/low to come out on top, where in the 2 breast there could be four or five swimmers going close to or under that world record

AnEn
Reply to  Swimdude
1 month ago

4 or 5 guys who could go 2:06 low? I absolutely don’t see it. I would be very surprised to see more than 2 guys at best going 2:06 low.

Dudeman
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

There’s 4-5 guys between 2:06 low and 2:06.9 right now so it’s not unreasonable to see that. A lot of 200 breast swimmers swim really fast in the semi’s so they might not all have their fastest race in the final

AnEn
Reply to  Dudeman
1 month ago

Yeah, but all of them except for Chupkov are more than half a second away from the world record. It is very unrealistic to expect 3 or more of those guys to drop more than half a second at the same time.

Dudeman
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

It was probably unrealistic for Balandin to win in 2016 too but look what happened there. Also that’s exactly why I said they might not all swim their fastest race at the same time. The olympics always bring out impressive performances

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

Let’s pile on Retta again. She’s right, The men’s 200 free probably is the most “competitive” event right now.There are 6 guys within a second of each other in the 200 breast. Everyone and his brother can go 1:45 (there were 12 guys in 2016 alone and probably 6 guys in the U.S. alone who could do that at Trials), and after three rounds at an Olympics, 1:44 mid wins. The other big difference is the super suits didn’t mean that much in breast stroke, but made a huge difference in freestyle. So being better than the WR is comparing apples to oranges.

M d e
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

Yeah fair call. I suppose it feels different because of the times. 200 free is in a gap post agnel with no one really swimming great times.

200 BR has like 7 or 8 guys who are pushing the WR to a new standard.

Like, 200 free is competitive because there isn’t ‘a guy’ right now. 200 BR is competitive because there is about 8 guys at the same time.

Sqimgod
Reply to  Retta Race
1 month ago

Not most competitive now but definitely the most entertaining and in order to be classified as one of the GOATS you have to swim it.

Arisuin
Reply to  M d e
1 month ago

And you know what is else stupid? That I can still barely find a full race video of the 200 breast finals at 2019 wc. Like come on, three under 2:07 and even a wr and it seems like no one cares.

Nono
Reply to  Arisuin
1 month ago
Arisuin
Reply to  Nono
1 month ago

Thanks mate

AnEn
Reply to  M d e
1 month ago

Depends on how you measure competitiveness. Chupkov is the clear favorite for gold, so in that regard this is rather one of the least competitive events. This event is unique in the sense that there is no other event where 5 or 6 guys are faster than the world record from just 3 years ago. In my opinion the only other event on the men’s side where multiple guys could be faster than the world record from 3 years ago is the 100 back.

BDL Swim
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

Chupkov is not the clear favorite. If new comers like Kamminga and Sato are throwing down 2:06s in an Olympic year, they have a very legitimate shot at gold. Chupkov’s WR is from 18 months ago.

AnEn
Reply to  BDL Swim
1 month ago

For me that is like saying that Milak isn’t the clear favorite in the 200 fly. Chupkov has been in a league of his own before the Covid break and given his age i see no reason to think that he will regress. Even if he doesn’t improve, you have to be very optimistic to think that an other guy can get down to 2:06.1 in the next couple of months. Sato is the most likely candidate given his age. I don’t seem to rate Kamminga as highly as you do, personally i don’t consider him a serious medal contender in the 200 breast.

Mega Stud
1 month ago

FARK

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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