21-year-old Ippei Watanabe of Japan rocked the world in January of 2017 by clocking a new World Record in the men’s 200m breaststroke. Touching in an other-worldly 2:06.67, Watanabe raced his way to the new global mark by becoming the first man ever under the 2:07 barrier.
Since that time, Watanabe has continued to make waves in the 200m breast event, but has been well on the other side of the 2:07 threshold. At last year’s World Championships Watanabe scored bronze behind Russia’s Anton Chupkov and Japanese teammate Yasuhiro Koseki, earning a time of 2:07.47. So far in 2018, Watanabe was beaten by Koseki once again at the Japan Swim, touching in 2:08.86 for silver. A few weeks later a Koseki-less final at the 2018 Japan Open saw Watanabe snatch gold in a solid 2:08.30.
Speaking to Sankei News recently, Watanabe said of his performances so far this year, “I have been training very hard and competed pretty tired. I felt numb toward the end, which made me realize I needed to train harder for the summer.”
Ultimately, the Waseda University athlete revealed that he has been dealing with a knee injury. Tests performed in January of this year reportedly revealed that his kicking motion was impacting his knee due to lack of support from his inner thigh muscles.
“I was told by specialists that I would face this type of pain someday, but in a way I was fortunate to…because I still have two more years for the 2020 Olympics.”
Recovering from the injury is pushing Watanabe towards his goal of overtaking his own World Record at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in August. Inspiring him is his own name and time listed on a plague adorning lane 4 at the Pan Pacs venue, the Tatsumi International Aquatics Centre. Along with Japanese breaststroking legend Kosuke Kitajima, the men’s names and times are commemorated on the plaque right where their respective WR’s were set.
“The world fastest speed power lies in Lane 4,” says Watanabe. “I wish to renew this plaque with my new world record at Pan Pac in August.
“The 200 M Breaststroke is a very competitive domestically already, especially with Koseki, silver medalist from the 2017 World Championship.” Watanabe says, “I know I need to put all my effort at the prelim in order to secure Lane 4.”
Translation assistance provided by Rebecca Nishikawa- Roy.