The University of Mexico’s Seidler Natatorium has played host to two Japanese swimming teams over the past three weeks. A squad from Osaka, with another from Tsukuba have been conducting a training camp at the facility to take advantage of the site’s relative high altitude environment.
The most recognizable name from the Itoman Swimming School in Osaka is that of powerhouse Japanese backstroker Ryosuke Irie. Irie is a three-time Olympic medalist, including a silver in the men’s 200m backstroke in London. Ever-consistent Irie is certainly a favorite to earn a berth on the Japanese Olympic roster for Rio, currently ranked 5th in the world in the men’s 100m backstroke and 2nd in the 100m backstroke
The altitude experience is meant to help Irie and the other swimmers in their quest to perform at their best come Japanese Olympic Trials this spring. Although the 2016 Olympic Games host city Rio de Janeiro sits right about at sea level, altitude training is common among swimming, as well as other sports, with the theory being that the higher altitude causes increased lung capacity, as well as ‘definite improvements in physiological mechanisms after only just two weeks of exposure.’ Albuquerque, where the University of New Mexico is located, is positioned approximately 5300 feet above sea level.
Says Taketoshi Michiura, Head Coach of Itoman Swimming, “There is no training facility in Japan with this high altitude. We chose New Mexico because of the high altitude.”
Hiroko Takuwa, an Assistant Coach with Itoman, said the team’s training schedule involves training “2 hours in the morning and then again in the afternoon, everyday.”
Tsukuba Assistant Professor, Yasuo Sengoku expressed that “It was a very welcoming and heart-warming environment here. All of the people were really nice and we were very happy about that. [The swimmers] were able to really concentrate on their training.
The University of New Mexico’s women’s swimming team has a Japanese connection of its own in the form of Head Coach Kunio Kono. Kono, who has been the Lobos’ coach since 2012, is a Japanese native and is also married to Miho Kawabe. Kawabe earned a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as a Japanese synchronized swimmer.