Hagino & Seto Set For First Head-To-Head In Over A Year


Although we’ve seen a sprinkling of Japanese athletes already in action at the Tokyo New Year’s Meet, the Kosuke Kitajima Cup later this month, as well as February’s Japan Open, represent a more robust opportunity for racing among the Japanese elite Olympic hopefuls.

In the latter meet, the Japanese Swimming Federation (JASF) has released its initial list of entries, which preview a thrilling set of matchups akin to what we’ll eventually see at the actual Olympic Trials meet. That sole Olympic qualifying opportunity for Japanese swimmers rests with the Japan Swim, which is slated for April.

As a reminder, two-time gold medalist at the 2019 World Championships, Daiya Seto, has already earned Olympic berths in the 200m IM and 400m IM via those Gwangju performances. However, Seto has been out of action since last year, having been suspended for an ethics code violation involving an extramarital affair.

With a fresh outlook for 2021, Seto told Asian media this week, “Last year, I apologized for the inconvenience caused to many people by my actions. During the suspension, I talked with my family, Japan Swimming Federation, JOC, and many others, and by looking back on myself, I was keenly aware of how I was in a privileged environment and had selfish thoughts. I would like to thank my family for supporting me in this situation and the people who warmly spoke to me.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the people concerned for their efforts toward the holding of the tournament [Japan Open]. With this feeling in mind, we will concentrate on the practice and the tournament in front of us. ”

Although Seto confirmed to SwimSwam last week that he has still been training as usual, his racing will be put to the test with immediacy to the tune of dual IM head-to-head battles with Kosuke Hagino. In fact, this Japan Open will represent the first time the two men have battled since November 2019.

While Seto was on the sidelines, Hagino was taking names as a member of the International Swimming League (ISL) team Tokyo Frog Kings. The 26-year-old 400m IM Olympic champion remained undefeated in the short course version of that event throughout the season.

While Hagino is sticking to the IMs, Seto is also tackling the 200m fly here at this Japan Open, sharpening his skills in the quest of adding this as a 3rd individual Olympic event once the Japan Swim rolls around. We expect him to also race the 200m free at that meet to potentially become a member of the 800m free relay for a home-based Games as well.

You can read more about Seto’s ‘Team Daiya’ affiliation seen on the start lists here.

On the women’s side, the Swammy Award winner for Heart of a Champion, leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee, is entered in the 50m free to get her 2021 calendar year underway. The 20-year-old was originally set to race at the aforementioned Tokyo New Year’s Meet, but decided to hold off as Tokyo’s coronavirus cases were on the rise.

Yui Ohashiwho, like Hagino, remained undefeated in the 400m IM as a member of the Tokyo Frog Kings in the ISL, is entered in this meet, along with one of the top 200m flyers in the world right now, Suzuka Hasegawa.

Look for a full meet preview of the top races to watch as we get closer to this 2021 Japan Open.

Additional Notable Men’s Entrants

Naito Ehara
Nao Horomura
Kengo Ida
Ryosuke Irie
Shinnosuke Ishikawa
Masaki Kaneko
Takeshi Kawamoto
Masuhiro Kawane
Yuki Kobori
Junya Koga
Yasuhiro Koseki
Juran Mizohata
Naoki Mizunuma
Katsumi Nakamura
Bruno Ortiz (ESP)
Masato Sakai
Shoma Sato
Shinri Shioura
Keita Sunama
Daiki Tanaka
Honda Tomoru
Yuya Yajima
Akihiro Yamaguchi
Konosuke Yanagimoto
Keisuke Yoshida
Ippei Watanabe

Additional Notable Women’s Entrants

Sayaka Akase
Reona Aoki
Tomomi Aoki
Chihiro Igarashi
Nagisa Ikemoto
Runa Imai
Waka Kobori
Anna Konishi
Hiroko Makino
Sachi Mochida
Chisaki Nakajima
Miyu Namba
Rika Omoto
Natsumi Sakai
Aya Sato
Sakiko Shimizu
Rio Shirai
Satomi Suzuki
Miho Teramura
Kanako Watanabe
Yui Yamane


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About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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