Despite Tough Standards, Japan Assembles Its 2nd-Largest Olympic Squad

After a thrilling Japan Swim in Tokyo last week, an Olympic Trials filled with both highs and lows, the Japanese Swimming Federation has released its 34-member roster for the 2016 Olympic Games.

In reviewing the names, there aren’t any surprises or crazy last-minute additions from what we knew transpired from the 7-day competition. If anything, the absence of athletes in key events, such as Kosuke Kitajima missing out on the 100m breaststroke or any male/female sprint freestylers, further puts a spotlight on the fact that the JSF placed ambitiously high qualifying standards above and beyond the FINA qualification cuts in the hopes of not only pushing its athletes during Trials, but also with the aim of fielding a team likely and capable of scoring multiple finals once in Rio.

You can refresh yourself on the entire Japan Swim/Olympic Trials meet via the daily recap links below:

Day 1 Finals Recap
Day 2 Finals Recap
Day 3 Finals Recap
Day 4 Finals Recap
Day 5 Finals Recap
Day 6 Finals Recap
Day 7 Finals Recap

Somewhat surprisingly, despite the tough standards, Japan is bringing its 2nd biggest team ever to an Olympic Games. 34 swimmers will be representing Japan in Rio, just 4 members fewer than the 38 who competed for the nation at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.

Of the 34 members this year, 21 are first-time Olympians, marking the squad’s average age at just 22.4 years old. The age spectrum ranges from 3-time Olympic medalist Takeshi Matsuda at 31 years old to Natsumi Sakai, attending her first Olympics at the age of 14.

Japanese Head Coach Norimasa Hirai said in a press conference announcing the athletes, “We’re starting with the national team from today. The swimmers will have to develop themselves more (until the Olympics) and we hope to have a positive result.”

The national team is slated to hold a training camp in early May followed by participating in the Japan Open meet scheduled for May 20-22nd.

Japanese 2016 Olympic Games Roster


Kosuke Hagino – 200 free, 200 IM, 400 IM, 800 fr relay, 400 med relay
Ryosuke Irie – 100 back, 200 back, 400 med relay
Junya Hasegawa – 100 back
Masaki Kaneko – 200 back
Yasuhiro Koseki – 200 breast, 400 med relay
Daiya Seto – 400 IM, 200 fly
Masato Sakai – 200 fly
Hiromasa Fujimori – 200 IM
Ippei Watanabe – 200 breast
Katsumi Nakamura – 400 fr relay
Shinri Shioura – 400 fr relay
Kenji Kobase – 400 fr relay
Junya Koga – 400 fr relay
Takeshi Matsuda – 800 fr relay
Naito Ehara – 800 fr relay
Yuki Kabori – 800 fr relay
Takurou Fujii – 400 med relay


Kanako Watanabe – 100 breast, 200 breast, 400 med relay
Satomi Suzuki – 100 breast
Rie Kaneto – 200 breast
Rikako Ikee – 100 fly, 400 fr relay, 800 fr relay, 400 med relay
Natsumi Hoshi – 200 fly
Suzuka Hasegawa – 200 fly
Miho Teramura – 200 IM
Runa Imai – 200 IM
Miho Takahashi – 400 IM
Sakiko Shimizu – 400 IM
Miki Uchia – 400 fr relay
Misaki Yamaguchi – 400 fr relay
Yayoi Matsumoto – 400 fr relay
Chighiro Igarashi – 800 fr relay
Sachi Mochida – 800 fr relay
Aoki Tomomi – 800 fr relay
Sakai Natsumi – 400 med relay

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5 years ago

Wow no mens 100 BR, after the dominance of Kitajima there is a huge hole in japan

5 years ago

Some of the relay only swimmers could have done individual events, ex. men’s 50 and 100 free and any other relay swimmer under the FINA A cuts. They are still at the meet. Did not look to see what other events would have had swimmers.

5 years ago

I agree with Dan (nice name!). It doesn’t make sense to me to send relay-only swimmers unless you let them swim the other races they have qualified to swim according to FINA standards. You’re paying for their ticket to Rio already; are the entry fees for individual races THAT high? The experience of swimming individual races at an Olympic Games could really help them in 2020.

By the way, why is Hagino swimming the Medley Relay? Is he going to be the anchor? If so, why wouldn’t he also swim the 400 free relay?

Reply to  Danjohnrob
5 years ago

They don’t bring a specific 100 fly guy, although they bring Takuro Fuji for medley relay who didn’t meet their QT but I assume will also swim individual 100 fly since already swum FINA A. So I think Hagino will be their back up/prelims swimmer for fly leg.

Jeff Kwok
Reply to  OntarioSwimming
5 years ago

Just did a quick check. Based on the Japanese Swimming Federation’s report, Hagino is not slated for the 4 x 100 medley relay. His events should be the two IMs, 200 free and the 800m fre relay.

For reference, Hagino’s name is first on the list:

Arthur S
Reply to  Danjohnrob
5 years ago

Japan doesn’t let anyone swim in an event that they don’t expect to at least make the semi final. It has nothing to do with cost. It is a national pride thing that seems very weird to us westerners. They don’t want to be shamed by any athlete having a poor result at the Olympics. It also seems like their standards are a bit off as Kitajima swam the 4th fastest time in the world this year (but in the semi final not final) and they aren’t sending him.

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Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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