The wide spectrum of performances we’ve seen thus far at the 2016 Japanese Olympic Trials shines a light on the fact that this nation has completely threatening talent across some disciplines, while still resting quite a ways back in others. Let’s take a high-level look at the strong and not-so-strong angles of the Japanese men’s swimming team in the midst of what’s happening at Trials in Tokyo.
Strength – Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Both the men and women of Japan have thrown down statement swims within 200 breaststroke event, with special emphasis on the men. In light of the fact that Japan is one of several federations who set its Olympic-qualifying standards faster in most case than the FINA A cut, it’s reassuring to Japanese swimming fans that they were still able to successfully field 2 male swimmers after today’s final.
The FINA A cut stands at 2:11.66, but the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard is over a second faster, sitting at 2:09.54. The 2 men who qualified, Yasuhiro Koseki (2:08.14) and Ippei Watanabe (2:09.45) did so in a manner in that their times are Rio semi-final-worthy and quote possibly able to final come the Olympic Games.
Looking at the broader picture, however, an incredible 6 Japanese men comprise the world’s top 10 200m breaststroke times right now. With British Trials and American Trials not yet having taken place, those standings are almost guaranteed to change, but seeing so many “JPN” notations within the rankings is till eye-opening. That means 60% of the world’s top 200m breaststrokers are from just one nation – Japan.
Strength – Men’s 200m Backstroke
Although we’ve not yet made it through finals in Tokyo, the men’s semi-final of the 200m backstroke has brought some promising results. Top seed Keita Sunama and Olympic medalist Ryosuke Irie lead the tightly-packed semi field in times of 1:56.43 and 1:57.05, respectively, but the competitors are all relatively playing it same until the final.
Anyone could strike however, as Japanese men own 4 of the world’s top 10 times in this event at the moment. That means 40% of the world’s fastest 200m backstrokers per the world rankings are from Japan. Again, having not conducted its Trials yet, the traditionally backstroke-heavy U.S. for comparison only hosts 2 swimmers in the world’s top 10 in Ryan Murphy and Matt Grevers.
Strength – Men’s 200 IM
It goes without saying that a fierce battle is brewing between Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino in the 200m IM. We have been recounting their back and forth rivalry through prelims and semi’s, but suffice it to say that these men are nearing the Japanese equivalent to America’s awesome duo of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the event.
But the scary part is that they’re not alone. The Japanese contingency comprises a whopping 50% of the world’s top 200 IM times at the moment. Hiromasa Fujimori, Takeharu Fujimori and Keita Sunama are all world-class 200 IMers, all from Japan. Even though only 2 book a ticket to Rio, 4 out of the 5 of those swimmers are under 22 years of age, therefore, this kind of younger domination bodes well for future championships.
Weakness – Men’s 400 Freestyle
Before you comment, just know I’m leaving Hagino out for just the purposes of this discussion. With Hagino opting out of the 400m event for his Olympic schedule, latching on to the 400m IM as his primary event on the first day of competition in Rio, whom does that leave the Japanese with as a viable threat in this event ongoing?
In finals, neither of the top 2 finishers were able to nab the stiff Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 3:46.53, meaning, at this point, Japan will have no representation in this event in Rio.
- Naito Ehara 3:47.43
- Yousuke Miyamoto 3:48.42
Without Hagino at the 2015 FINA World Championships, Japan saw its highest finisher in this event in the form of Tsubasa Amai, who wound up just 35th out of prelims with a time of 3:52.06. Ehara or Miyamoto or another swimmer lurking in the nation needs to get in gear in this event, as Hagino certainly isn’t giving up the 400m IM any time soon.