“I have no regrets” is what Yamaguchi said while reflecting on his career while revealing his decision just days after the conclusion of the 2021 Japan Swim, the meet which represented the nation’s sole Olympic-qualifying competition.
There in Tokyo, Yamaguchi raced in the 100m breast and placed 28th in a time of 1:02.01. He was also 28th in the non-Olympic 50m breast, posting 28.72 and did not race the 200m distance.
In Yamaguchi’s social media post on his retirement, the man said, “I have been competing for about 22 years and have had a very fulfilling career. I was able to experience both good times and bad. I was able to establish a record in my junior years but have not performed that well again in over 9 years.”
He also said, “I hope I have an opportunity to share my experience someday. I will cheer on Olympic athletes and future stars of the swimming world.”
Yamaguchi set a new World Record of 2:07.01 seemingly out of nowhere as a junior in high school. Just 17 at the time, Yamaguchi had taken Junior Pan Pacific Championships gold in the 200m breast event in August 2012, clocking a time of 2:08.03 before crushing his lifetime best and new WR mark of 2:07.01 just a month later.
Since then, Yamaguchi has seen his record lowered on multiple occasions as follows:
- 2:07.01, Yamaguchi, 2012
- 2:06.67, Ippei Watanabe (JPN), 2017
- 206.67, Matthew Wilson (AUS), 2019
- 2:06.12, Anton Chupkov (RUS), 2019
Yamaguchi himself had not been able to capture the same magic that fueled his historic swim, however. He notched just 2:12.33 to place 11th at the 2015 FINA World Aquatic Championships and was rendered just 19th at Japan’s Olympic Trials in 2016, off the team for Rio. He missed the 2017 and 2019 World Championships as well.