2021 JAPAN OPEN
- Thursday, February 4th – Sunday, February 7th
- Tokyo Aquatics Centre
- LCM (50m)
- Entry List (in Japanese)
- SwimSwam Preview
- Day 1 Prelims/Day 1 Finals
On the penultimate day of action here in Tokyo, Hagino and Seto duked it out in the men’s 200m IM after they battled in the 400m IM two days ago. In that previous longer event, it was Seto who wound up on top, with Hagino settling for 6th. However, this evening in the short IM it was Hagino’s turn to turn up the heat to wind up atop the podium.
Before getting to the 200m IM results, though, we need to step back one event to the 200m fly, which Seto raced just minutes before.
Seto set himself up as the top-seeded swimmer in this event in which he owns the Japanese national record, as well as the world record in the short course version, by hitting a 2fly time of 1:56.80. That clocking already positioned this dad of two just outside the list of top 10 swimmers in the world this season.
Come tonight, however, it was 19-year-old Tomoru Honda who brought the thunder, busting out a big-time swim of 1:55.32. Opening in 55.48 and closing in 59.84, Honda of the International Swimming League’s (ISL) Tokyo Frog Kings was able to hold the edge over a charging Nao Horomura.
Horomura actually led at the halfway point with his mighty 55.15 opener but fell back slightly to finish a hand behind Honda with a final result of 1:55.68.
Seto rounded out the top 3 in a time of 1:56.32, more than respectable for the ace who hasn’t raced in nearly 6 months.
Honda has been as fast as 1:55.76 already this season, a mark he produced last October at the Japan Inter-Collegiate Championships. The teen is the reigning World Junior Championships silver medalist after posting a time of 1:55.31 in 2019 to finish just .29 behind winner Luca Urlando of the United States.
Honda’s effort here moves him up in the world rankings, placing him in slot #3, while Horomura ties Aleksandr Kudashev to represent the 4th fastest swimmer in the world so far this season.
Seto settles for the 8th rank, merely a placeholder before the returning swimmer who owns a lifetime best of 1:52.53 continues to come back to form.
With just the women’s 200m IM event in between, Seto dove back in for the men’s 200m IM, putting his fitness to the test with such a short break. His weariness showed a bit, with the Olympic bronze medalist in this event finishing last with a pedestrian time of 2:03.89.
Winning the 200m IM was Hagino who produced a solid 1:58.14. He’s already been as fast as 1:57.67 to rank as the 4th quickest in the world so far this season. Joining Hagino in the 1:58 territory was tonight’s runner-up Juran Mizohata, who touched in 1:58.82, just .4 outside his lifetime best.
As a reminder, Seto has already pre-qualified for this summer’s home-based Olympic Games, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He accomplished the selection via his gold medal-winning performances at the 2019 World Championships.
With that in mind, Seto is seeking qualification in the men’s 200m fly and potentially the 200m free as a member of the 800m free relay. Although, as mentioned, Seto is the fastest Japanese 2flyer in history, Honda and Horomura have announced they will not go down quietly.
As for Hagino, his consistency in the 200m IM renders him primed to join Seto once again as the pair representing Japan on the world’s biggest sporting state.
After his race, Seto stated to Japanese media, “Honestly, my body felt heavy from the moment I jumped in. There is still a lack of fitness.”
However, he did say he was ‘able to confirm my skills and senses haven’t diminished’, saying he needs to focus on endurance and his lactic acid handling ability.