Daiya Seto of Japan is one half of a lethal pair of stud swimmers from his nation that routinely tear up the IM event world rankings during the year. Along with 2016 Olympic gold medalist teammate Kosuke Hagino, the partners in crime made it a Japanese 1 & 3 finish in the 400m IM in Rio, establishing themselves as the next Phelps/Lochte perpetual warriors in the grueling event.
Seto’s other signature race is the men’s 200m butterfly, which he won at his nation’s Olympic Trials this Spring. Although Seto entered the Olympics with a faster 200m butterfly time (1:54.63) then teammate Masato Sakai (1:55.23) from those Trials, it was Sakai who landed on the podium in the event in Rio. Sakai nailed a swift 1:53.40 to finish with the silver, just .04 of a second off of Phelps’ gold medal-winning 1:53.36. Seto wound up 5th in the race.
At just 22 years of age, Seto is still young enough in his career to try out other events, which is what the Waseda University student appears to be doing for the 2017 FINA World Championships. Seto recently told the media that he’ll now add the 100m butterfly sprint event to his repertoire, both as an individual race, and also as a means to nab a spot on the Japanese 4x100m medley relay.
Seto’s resume of 100m butterfly swims is on the slim side, with his last performance coming at the Barcelona stop of 2015’s Mare Nostrum tour. There, he notched a mark of 52.72 to finish 4th in the final behind Poland’s Konrad Czerniak and fellow countryman Takeshi Kawamoto and Takuro Fujii. Prior to that meet, the last major meet in which Seto raced the sprint fly event was back in 2012 at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
Somewhat surprisingly, Japan has never seen a male swimmer stand on any step of the podium in the 100m butterfly event at a World Championships. At last year’s meet in Kazan, Takuro Fujii was the nation’s highest finisher, clocking at time of 51.58 for a 9th place finish.
Japan was also without 100m butterfly representation in Rio, as the Trials’ top 2 finishers, Fujii (52.03) and Takeshi Kawamoto (52.36) both failed to hit the Japanese Olympic Qualification Standard of 51.64. Pair that with the fact that the Japanese National Record still stands at 51.00 thrown down by Kohei Kawamoto back in the 2009 supersuit era, and the nation is hungry to find a fresh new talent in the event to stop the likes of Singapore’s Joseph Schooling and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos.
If Seto were to pursue the 100m butterfly in earnest, he’d need to start consistently collecting marks in the 51-mid range to be the top dog within his nation and beyond. We’ll excitedly keep tabs on how the athlete progresses into the event over the next year.