The 2017 Summer Universiade or World University Games (WUGs) kicks off with its Opening Ceremony today in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, with the swimming competition getting underway as of tomorrow, August 20th. The fields are set for the major aquatic nations, with the 2015 edition’s top 3 finishers of the U.S., Japan and Russia bringing some heavy weaponry into the National Taiwan Sport University Arena.
For Japan, that means carrying key hard-hitting Olympians in its contingent, including 3-time medalist in Rio, Kosuke Hagino. Currently aged 23, Hagino graduated from university in April of this year, officially turning professional with his contract with Bridgestone.. He tore it up in Rio, collecting a gold medal in the men’s 400m IM event, followed by a silver in the 200m IM race and an unexpected bronze as a member of Japan’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
In Taipei as a redemption of sorts from a lackluster 2017 World Championships, Hagino is taking on a monster schedule, kicking off with the 400m freestyle. He will also be contesting the 100m/200m backstroke, 200m freestyle, and 200m IM/400m IM. As for relays, he’s currently expected to swim on Japan’s 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle relays.
Joining him on 2 of those relays is Olympic teammate Daiya Seto who also turned pro earlier this year, after having graduated this past Spring. Seto scored bronze in the 400m IM in Rio, and will be tackling that, as well as the 200m IM and 200m butterfly races in Taipei.
The Japanese women are also looking to land on the podium with the help of mega IM talent Yui Ohashi. Ohashi earned silver most recently at the 2017 World Championships in the 200m IM, finishing less than a second behind Katinka Hosszu. Ohashi is 21 years of age and will be racing both IMs, as well as the 4x100m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay.
Also competing for the Japanese women is 2016 Olympian Kanako Watanabe, Japan’s breakout star of the 2015 World Championships. At that competition in Kazan, Watanabe earned gold in the 200m breaststroke event, while also earning a silver in the 200m IM. She was quiet over the Rio stretch, failing to make a final in the 2 individual breaststroke events.
Of note, criteria for participating in future WUGs will be changing, with the upper end of the age bracket moving to 25 years of age instead of 28, as announced in March of 2016.