Japan’s Top Guns Ready To Rock At Next Month’s National Championships


  • Thursday, April 13th – Sunday, April 16th, 2017
  • NGK Arena, Nagoya, Japan
  • Qualification Meet for 2017 World Championships, World University Games and World Junior Championships
  • Meet Information
  • Entry List (in Japanese)

With Japanese powerhouse Kosuke Hagino back in full force since last fall’s endoscopic elbow surgery, international eyes will be on the Olympic gold medalist as he competes domestically at his nation’s championships next month. The 2017 Japan Swim serves as the country’s qualification meet for the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, as well as the World University Games and World Junior Championships. As such, the Asian nation’s full arsenal of aquatic talent will be on full display, as evidenced by the start lists released this week.

Kosuke Hagino – The Olympic gold medalist (400m IM) and silver medalist (200 IM) is set to compete in his bread and butter IM events, as well as the 200m and 400m freestyle races. The former was an individual event in which the 22-year-old finaled in Rio, while the 400m has always been a lurking race the Toyo University graduate has kept in his repertoire. The 200m backstroke has been off his radar the past few years, but he and coach Norimasa Hirai have publicly said the swimmer’s backstroke has been feeling dynamite since his surgery, so look for the multi-faceted athlete to race in that discipline more and more as the quadrennial rolls on. He did compete in the 100m back at the Madrid Open last month, clocking a solid 54.58.

Rikako Ikee – The teen phenom continues to impress, breaking records virtually every time she swims. At just 16 years of age, the high schooler owns her nation’s fastest marks of all time across the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events, as well as the 50m and 100m butterfly events. In Rio, Ikee’s highest finish was her 6th place result in the 100m butterfly, while she followed that up quickly with a trio of bronze medals at the 2016 World Short Course Championships in Windsor. At the Japan Swim, look for Ikee to stake her World Championship roster claim in each of the aforementioned events, entering as the top seed in each.

Ippei Watanabe – The relatively recent world record holder in the men’s 200m breaststroke is set to compete in his signature event, while also racing the 100m breaststroke and 200m IM. Watanabe was originally slated to compete at the Konami Open, but wound up not racing. As such, we’ll see what the 2:06.67-200 breaststroker has in store to give us a sign if he will continue to dominate the world, or if he’ll fade into the background a lá his teammate and former record holder in the same event Akihiro Yamaguchi.

Masato Sakai – The 200m butterfly silver medalist, who finished just behind American Michael Phelps in Rio, is set to compete in the 200m fly and 200m freestyle events at the national championships. While competing at the Konami Open last month, Sakai proved once again that he is Japan’s weapon of pool destruction in the 2fly, stopping the clock in a wicked-fast 1:54.72. He already owns the top time in the world with is 1:54.53 from last November’s Asian Swimming Championships.

Daiya Seto – Hagino’s partner in crime is set to throw down in the 200m IM event, as well as the 100m and 200m butterfly races. Most recently Seto competed at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis, trying the 100m butterfly event on for size, an event in which he says he wants to take more seriously. 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.

Shinri Shioura – Sprintmeister Shioura is slated to race the 50m and 100m freestyle events, setting himself up as the man to beat with notable performances at the World Short Course Championships in Windsor last December. The 25-year-old athlete scored a bronze medal finish in the sprint 100m IM event, while also touching in the silver place position in the men’s 100m freestyle in Windsor.

Notably absent from the entry lists, as expected, is 200m breaststroke Olympic gold medalist Rie Kaneto. The 28-year-old is contemplating her retirement, but has publicly announced that she would not be competing at these national championships, thus not seeking a spot on Japan’s World Championships roster.

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About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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