2016 KONAMI OPEN
- Saturday, February 20th – Sunday, February 21st
- Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center, Tokyo, Japan
- Prelims at 9am local (7pm previous night EST)/Finals at 6pm local (4am EST)
- Meet Site
- Meet Preview
- Start Lists/Results
The Japanese contingent put some of the world’s fastest swims on display during the first day of the 2016 Konami Open in Tokyo. Before the night was through, world ranking shake-ups took place in addition to two Japanese National Records and one World Junior Record being wiped off the map. With Japan’s Olympic Trials slated for April, the squad’s output today most certainly puts the world on notice that both the men and women of Japan are a force to be reckoned with.
Multi-event threat Kosuke Hagino was at his best today, striking across two different events and looking mighty fierce while doing it. He first laid waste to the field in the men’s 200 freestyle, an event his coach Norimasa Hirai has confirmed Hagino will target at Trials. Today he proved he is absolutely in the Olympic medal conversation, throwing down a mighty 1:46.14. That time ranks as the 3rd fastest this season, only behind China’s Sun Yang and Velimir Stjepanovic.
Hagino’s best time of 2015 was a 1:45.82, which ended up as the 5th-fastest on the year. Given that he’s already within half a second of that this early on in 2016, with Trials just two months away, is a huge sign that his elbow injury from last summer has healed and the 21-year-old is healthy and strong.
But, if the 200 freestyle wasn’t enough to convince us that Hagino is back to form, his 400 IM certainly was. Headed into this meet, he and teammate Daiya Seto were 1-2 in the world rankings. The pair’s season-best times are separated by less than a second, with Hagino leading the duo with his blistering mark of 4:11.38 and Seto just behind in 4:12.10.
Hagino exerted his absolute dominance over the event today, however, clocking the world’s first sub-4:10 mark of 2016. Hagino roared to the wall in a time of 4:09.06, a time just .12 of a second off of the 4:08.94 mark he blasted to win the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Last year, Hagino’s best time was even faster, at 4:08.54, so, again, the fact that this freakishly-fast fish is throwing down times in this range just in February is a testament to how much of a medal threat he will be over multiple events in Rio.
Seto was runner-up in today’s race, but clocked a slightly slower time than his season best, coming in at 4:13.60. Still extremely competitive on an international level, but Hagino set himself apart and made a statement against his countryman in the event for now.
In the men’s 50 freestyle, Katsumi Nakamura swam an on-par time of 22.13 to maintain his position as the 11th fastest swimmer in the world, while Junya Koga earned first place in the men’s 100 backstroke with a time of 53.97, tying his time from the Austin Pro Swim Series last month.
The women’s racing was equally impressive today in Tokyo, beginning with Sakiko Shimizu setting a new Japanese National Record in the women’s 400 IM. The old mark stood at 4:35.69, held by Miho Takahashi from 2014’s Japan Open, but Shimizu shaved over half a second from the record, setting a time of 4:35.04.
Shimizu was already turning some heads on the world circuit having clocked the world’s 3rd-fastest time this season while competing at the World Cup Dubai meet. Her 4:36.35 from that competition sat only behind Hungarian Katinka Hosszu’s 4:32.25 and British swimmer Aimee Willmott’s 4:34.82.
With today’s swim, Shimizu remains as 3rd in the world, but knocked over a second off of her previous time to inch ever closer to the 4:35 threshold.
Scoring a new World Junior Record today, however, was 15-year-old freestyling phenom Rikako Ikee. Following up on her 100 freestyle national record from last month at the Kitajima Cup (53.99), Ikee threw down her nation’s fastest-ever 50m freestyle time, stopping the clock at an impressive 24.74. Again, at just 15 years old, Ikee now ranks as the 8th-fastest in the world.
Ikee’s sub-25 outing today takes over the World Junior World Record, which was previously held by China’s Chen Zinyi at 24.87, clocked at the 2014 Asian Games. The previous Japanese National Record was held by runner-up finisher, Miki Uchida, at 24.53 from September last year. Today, Uchida finished behind Ikee today with another solid time of 25.00.
Also setting the pool aflame was 200 butterfly World Champion Natsumi Hoshi, who led a trio of sub-minute 100 butterfliers today in Tokyo. Hoshi rocked a solid mark of 58.86 to top the field that did not include Ikee, the national record holder (57.56). Runner-up in the women’s 100 fly today was Ryoka Hasegawa in 59.49, followed by Kanto Hirayama in 59.96.
Prelims resume tomorrow at 9am local time.