The 2014 Japanese National Championships in Tokyo saw their 3rd day on Saturday. While this day was more up-and-down than the first two, a pair of Japanese Records (one of which was also an Asian Record) from Kosuke Hagino left excitement in the air at the Tatsumi International Swim Center.
Women’s 800 Free – FINALS
The Japanese women lost a lot of momentum at the end of Friday’s finals session, where they had only a single qualifier in the last two individual events of the day.
When Saturday’s finals rolled around, things didn’t look much better, though the opening women’s 800 free wasn’t a total loss. There, Chida Asami won in 8:36.92 to be the lone qualifier for Pan Pacs. Of course, an 8:36 really isn’t much of a time, however it is two seconds faster than she was to win this race last year, and most of the field was faster than last year.
Last year’s top 4: 38/43/44/46
This year’s top 4: 36/40/43/43
It’s really quite strange what has happened to this Japanese women’s distance group since 2012. At Japan’s 2012 Olympic Trials, an 8:36 would’ve only placed 8th, as compared to this year where it won. It’s not as though that top 7 in 2012 were old – nobody in that race is older than 24 right now (and a couple are still teenagers), yet the quality just has disappeared.
Women’s 50 Back – FINALS
The 2nd race of the night was also a women’s race, and much as they struggled in the 100 back on Friday, this 50 wasn’t much better. Miyuki Takemura won in 28.32, followed by 36-year old Noriko Inada (28.42) and Emi Mornuki (28.57).
Unfortunately, none of those top three swimmers were under the qualifying standard, so none have initially qualified for Pan Pacs. At this point of Saturday’s session, the last four women’s races had seen only two qualifiers, which is contrast to the nearly-full lineups earlier in the meet.
Men’s 50 Back – FINALS
Things really started to take off on Saturday evening when two of Japan’s all-time great backstrokers went 1-2 in the men’s 50 backstroke. Junya Koga took the gold in 24.68 and Ryosuke Irie took 2nd in 24.86, both of which fall under the qualifying standard.
That’s a second solid backstroke swim for Irie in this meet, and with how fast Kosuke Hagino has looked in the longer races this week (more on him later in this session), the 200 could be the battle-of-the-meet.
Men’s 400 Free – FINALS
Speaking of Kosuke Hagino, he began his day with a 3:43.90 in the men’s 400 freestyle, which earns him plenty of superlatives and accolades. For starters, it launches him to 2nd in the World Rankings this year. That’s a World Ranking that so far looks as though it might be a gauntlet over the summer for Hagino, as most of the top 10 (with two Brits being the exception) will race at the Pan Pacs.
What’s more, that’s a new Japanese National Record, breaking his own 3:44.82 set at the World Championships last summer. Hagino’s versatility is just incredible.
He was way out in front of the field in this one, turning in 1:51.50 en route to that swim. That 200-meter split is actually very similar to the split of James Guy, who broke the British Record on Thursday. Those two won’t get to match up this summer, but if these two swims were superimposed upon each other, they’d look something like this:
- Guy (Britain): 54.02 — 1:51.87 — 2:49.06 == 3:45.15
- Hagino (Japan): 53.66 — 1:51.50 — 2:48.47 == 3:43.90
Guy really did good work on the back half of his 400, which highlights just how fast Hagino came home in this race.
Women’s 200 Fly – FINALS
The Japanese women sprang to life in the 200 fly; according to our World Rankings editor Shannon MacDonald, the entire A and B finals jumped into the World’s top 50 after this event.
At the top of that heap was a 2:05.98 from Natsumi Hoshi, that jumped her to the head of the World Rankings in 2014. There’s still a few swimmers around with championships yet to go (the Chinese at their Nationals, Katinka Hosszu at Maria Lenk in a week) who could unseat her before the big international meets start this summer, but that’s a good leadup swim for Hoshi going into Pan Pacs. She typically hits the second taper very well.
In 2nd place was 14-year old Haruno Itou in 2:09.88. The young swimmer was behind Hoshi most of the way, but put in context of her age, she had a very good first 150 meters before falling off on the home-stretch. She’s got a bright, bright future ahead of her.
Yai Watanabe took 3rd in 2:10.19, followed by Kona Fujita in 2:10.33.
Men’s 200 Fly – FINALS
Daiya Seto won the men’s 200 fly in 1:54.84 with a come-from-behind victory over Kenta Hirai (1:55.27). Those two will both move into the top 5 in the world rankings as well.
Hirai led almost this entire race, until the last 30 meters or so where Seto surged passed him
Placing 3rd was Masato Sakai in 1:56.26, and Kou Fukaya was 4th in 1:56.35.
In a continuing theme of this men’s meet, the young is pushing out the veterans in Japanese swimming (don’t be surprised if we see a mass retirement in Japan this summer). The two-time Olympic bronze medalist Takeshi Matsuda, now 29-years old, took 5th in 1:56.94. That’s still a very good time (he might even have made the U.S. Worlds team with it last summer), but the depth in front of him isn’t going anywhere.
Women’s 200 IM – FINALS
Kanako Watanabe looked great in the 100 breaststroke final earlier in this meet, but that hasn’t hindered her transition over to a world-class IM’er, either. The 17-year old won the 200 IM in 2:11.04, beating out Miho Teramura, who was 2:11.62.
This was a fun race to watch, as the two are very similar IM’ers. Teramura is a little bit better on the backstroke, Watanabe is a little bit better on the breaststroke, but despite the back-and-forth, nobody made much headway until the closing freestyle leg.
Both they and 3rd-place finish Sakiko Shimizu (winner of the 400 IM) in 2:12.87 were under the Pan Pacs qualifying standard. Miho Takahashi took 4th in 2:12.95, and 14-year old Hiroko Makino was 5th in 2:13.24 – which is a new Japanese Age Record.
Men’s 200 IM – FINALS
Closing the session with not just an exclamation but a thunderbolt, Kosuke Hagino won the men’s 200 IM in a new Japanese and Asian Record of 1:55.38. That improves upon his 1:55.74 that he swam to win this race last year.
As discussed on Thursday after a great 400 IM swim, though, Hagino struggled in this 200 IM to improve last year after the Japanese Championships as well, so a challenge still remains even though he looks like a favorite for gold at the Pan Pac Championships.
Hiromasa Fujimori took 2nd in 1:57.77, and Daiya Seto took 3rd in 1:57.92.
Full meet results after 3 days are available here. Note that they are in reverse order of event swim.