The 2013 Japan Open began Friday in the Sagamihara Green Pool (please, no South Africa jokes), and the typically-consistent Japanese National Team that is in attendance had a very good first day of performances.
The only member of the National Team not at this meet is Takuro Fujii, who Japan says is currently battling an injury.
That started with Aya Terakawaa in the women’s 100 backstroke final, where she swam a 59.50 for a relatively easy, full-second win ahead of a field of mostly junior competitors. Terakawa is the World Leader in this event this year, and the only woman worldwide under 59 seconds so far.
In the men’s race, Ryosuke Irie fired back with a 53.36 of his own – which is just .03 off of the time he went at Japanese Nationals earlier this year.
In 2nd in that race was Shirai Yuuki in 54.08 and Kosuke Hagino in 54.15. Yuuki is not on the World Championship team, but Hagino is: he’s the new start of Japanese swimming after winning 5 individual National Titles in the spring. He’s bucking the trend we typically see of high-level Japanese swimmers in this program: his time on Friday was a full second slower than the one that ranks him 2nd in the world this year from Nationals. He doesn’t show the same elevated in-season speed as Irie has throughout his career.
In the women’s 100 breaststorke, Satomi Suzuki won in 1:07.94. Her best race is the 200 breast where she was the Olympic silver medalist last year, though she is still very good in this 100. Even with the status of “best returner” headed into this year’s World Championships, she hasn’t looked quite as sharp early in 2013.
Rie Kaneto was 2nd in 1:08.27, and 16-year old Kanako Watanabe was 3rd in 1:08.27. Watanabe, once a breaststroke phenom, has shifted her focus for 2013 it seems, and will race only the 200 IM at the World Championships.
In the men’s race, Kosuke Kitajima looks more on his game at this meet than he did at Nationals after spending a month training back in the United States at USC. His 1:00.44 to win the 100 meter race on Friday is about three-tenths better than he was at the National Championships in early April, where he was only fast enough to earn a spot on the medley relay with no individual event.
Hagino didn’t swim the 200 free, one of his five wins from the Japanese Championships, which left the title to Syou Sotodate in 1:48.48. Sodate was followed by Fumiya Hidaka (1:48.78) and Naito Ehara (1:49.00.) That’s a young group – the top three ranged from 18 to 22 years old – and with the inclusion of Hagino on that relay in Barcelona, they could be at least a top-6 finisher. They missed finaling at the Olympics by a tenth of a second.
Chihiro Igarashi won the women’s race in 1:59.51, followed by Haruka Ueda in 1:59.93. Those two are both going to Worlds specifically as relay swimmers.
The swim of the day on the men’s side goes to Kenta Hirai in the 200 fly. He beat premier two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the event Takeshi Matsuda by margin of 1:55.82-1:57.07, with Kou Fukaya touching 3rd in 1:57.58. That is Hirai’s best time of the season and ranks him 5th in the world in 2013.
The women’s 200 fly had a standout performance as well, with National Record holder Natsumi Hoshi winning in 2:06.43. That’s not quite her best time this year, but is faster than anyone else (aside from China’s Jiao Liuyang) has been this year.