2020 KIRARA CUP
- Friday, February 7th – Sunday, February 8=9th
- Kirara Expo Park, Yamaguchi, Japan
- SwimSwam Preview
- Day 1 Recap
We pointed out in our piece yesterday on the ‘3 Japanese Records most likely to fall’ that the men’s 200m free appears to be at constant risk, primarily due to World Championships silver medalist Katsuhiro Matsumoto.
The 22-year-old made history by becoming the first man ever from Japan to medal at a long course World Championships with his silver in Gwangju last year. He clocked the current national record of 1:45.22 en route to the podium but has already been as fast as 1:45.82 in-season at the Kitajima Cup late last month, which is just over half a second outside his record.
Again tonight, Matsumoto put up a solid in-season effort of 1:46.36 to easily take Kirara Cup gold. Splits are not available as of yet, but Matsumoto’s time represented the only final effort to dip under 1:50.
Post-race, Matsumoto told Asian media, “It’s a satisfying time in the midst of fatigue. I feel like I’m doing well.”
Also in the water tonight was Yuya Tanaka, catching 50m fy gold in a mark of 23.58.
In the men’s 200m fly, Yuya Yajima claimed victory in 1:59.40, although the fastest time of the night came in the younger set’s final. Teppei Morimoto threw down a time of 1:57.39 in the teenage race.
Sakiko Shimizu dove in twice, capturing 400m IM gold in a mark of 4:38.05 and also taking silver behind Sachi Mochida in the women’s 200m fly. Shimizu’s time of 2:11.18 was outside of Mochida’s podium-topping effort of 2:09.43.
A big swim came in the form of Nagisa Ikemoto‘s victory in the 200m freestyle. Racing in the teenage final, the 17-year-old busted out the fastest time of her career, hitting the wall in 1:57.77 to put up the best mark of the night across all ages.
Entering this Kirara Cup, Ikemoto’s personal best rested at the 1:58.19 notched at the 2019 FINA Swimming World Cup stop in Tokyo. That made the teen Japan’s 8th fastest performer of all time.
With her first-ever sub 1:58 outing of 1:57.77 tonight, however, Ikemoto now rockets up to become the 5th fastest Japanese female performer ever in this event. She also adds more excitement to the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
The relay qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games already by way of its 8th place finish at the World Championships, but in that Gwangju final no Japanese squad member got under the 1:58 mark. Splits included 1:59.68 for Rio Shirai, 1:59.17 for Chihiro Igarashi, 1:58.17 for Tomomi Aoki and 1:58.98 for Ikemoto.
Although still well off a potential podium spot for this summer’s Olympics in the women’s 4x200m free relay, if Japan can put together performances more to the tune of Ikemoto’s individual swim tonight, they can make a run at finishing top 5.