Kosuke Hagino Reportedly Opting To Not Defend 400 IM Olympic Gold


  • Saturday, April 3rd – Saturday, April 10th
  • Tokyo Olympic Aquatics Centre
  • LCM (50m)
  • Japan’s Sole Olympic-Qualifying Opportunity
  • JASF Olympic Selection Policy

In a surprising turn of events, 26-year-old reigning Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino has decided to opt-out of the men’s 400m IM event for the 2021 Japan Swim, the sole Olympic qualifying opportunity for Japanese swimmers. As such, the man will not be seeking to defend his Olympic gold medal from 2016 in Rio.

Earlier this month we reported how Hagino had originally been targeting a hefty 5 individual events for the Japan Swim set for April, with his tentative lineup including the 200m IM, 400m IM, 100m back, 200m back and 200m free.

Since then, however, the father of one has decided to focus entirely on the 200m IM, 200m back and 200m free, leaving his 400m IM gold medal from 2016 in Rio up for grabs.

According to sources close to Hagino, based on his fitness and the event schedule at the Japan Swim, Hagino said his first goal is simply to make the team and he wants to contend events in which he feels he is in the best shape. (NHK)

Hagino turned heads just this month when he put up his fastest 200m backstroke time in over 6 years. While competing at the Tokyo Senior Spring Meet, the veteran posting a huge 1:55.84 to take silver at the meet but check-in as the 3rd fastest performer in the world this season.

As a reminder, 2019 world champion Daiya Seto has automatically qualified in the 400m IM from his gold medal in Gwangju, which means there is only one spot left to fill.

A minimum time of 4:15.24 is required from the Japan Swim 400m IM winner by the Japanese Swimming Federation (JASF). Already this season, there are a massive 6 Japanese swimmers under that cut-off, with Hagino among them, meaning it looks to be a fierce battle for that second slot.

Top Japanese 400m IM Swimmers Under OLY Qualifying Time This Season:

  1. Daiya Seto – 4:12.57
  2. Yuki Ikari – 4:12.84
  3. Tomoru Honda – 4:13.31
  4. Kosuke Hagino – 4:13.32
  5. Katio Tabuchi – 4:13.79
  6. Ippei Miyamoto – 4:13.96

In 2016, Hagino took Olympic gold in a time of 4:06.05, a time that registered as a new Japanese and Asian record and remains as the 5th fastest performance of all-time.

At the 2017 FINA World Championships, the ace slid to 6th place in 4:12.65 while he opted out of competing at the 2019 World Champisonihsp entirely due to taking a break from the sport. In between, Hagino did rake in a silver behind Seto at the 2018 Asian Games, but his performances haven’t been in the sub-4:10 range in quite some time.

With the Japan Swim event schedule, Hagino’s day-by-day dive-ins would look like the following for Olympic Trials, assuming he holds his now 3 events. There’s still a tough 200m back, 200m IM double to tackle for this superstar.

Saturday, April 3rd – OFF
Sunday, April 4th – 200m free prelim/semifinal
Monday, April 5th – 200m free final
Tuesday, April 6th – OFF
Wednesday, April 7th – 200m back prelim/semifinal; 200m IM prelim/semifinal
Thursday, April 8th – 200m back final; 200m IM final
Friday, April 9th – OFF
Saturday, April 10th – OFF

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6 months ago

That 2 IM / 2 back combo is brutal.

Reply to  Joe
6 months ago

Agreed, don’t see anyone trying it at the olympics. I don’t really see him having better medal chances in the 200 back, so not really sure what his goal is. It probably would be best to focus on the 200 IM and 200 free (if he doesn’t want to swim the 400 IM).

Reply to  AnEn
6 months ago

He’d gone through a slump recently, so maybe he feels more confident with 2back? Seems like he’s back in the game now, but perhaps he needs to budget his time/energy from now til the summer.

Also… just goes to show how impressive Maya DiRado’s performance at Rio was.

Another Joe
Reply to  Joe
6 months ago

Even peak Lochte couldn’t handle it (2008 a great backstroke but sub-par IM, 2012 was…)

Half an hour turnaround between two tough 200s. A tall order indeed.

6 months ago


6 months ago

Interesting, i definitely considered him one of the medal favorites in the 400 IM. On the one hand there is clearly less competition in the 400 IM and with something like 4:08 he probably would have been guaranteed a medal, but on the other hand he probably wouldn’t have had a chance to win gold. In the 200 free there is more competition, but there is no clear gold medal favorite. Dropping the 100 back seems like a no brainer, even making the final would have been really difficult. Not sure what he hopes to achieve in the 200 back, but i really don’t see him fighting for a medal. In my opinion the best possible line-up for him would… Read more »

Texas Tap Water
6 months ago

Smart. he’s not going anywhere near Seto in 400 IM.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Texas Tap Water
6 months ago

Any medal, silver or bronze would still be impressive though. I think he’s opting out to have more energy for the 200 IM

Mr Piano
Reply to  Mr Piano
6 months ago

The double will be easier if you don’t have a 400 IM earlier in the week. Ryan Lochte knows this pain lol

6 months ago

Who would willingly swim the 4 IM

Reply to  MX4x50relay
6 months ago

Strong people

6 months ago

Means Phelps 2008 was the last “proper” 400 IM defence (I know MP did it in 2012 but he clearly hadn’t trained for it).

It’s such a brutal event, it takes so long to move from finalist being the number 1 (both Hagino and Lochte medalled at the previous Olympics) and the regime is so tough most can’t face another four years.

Reply to  Togger
6 months ago

Really interesting, reminds me of something i recently “discovered” when looking at the times it took to final at ever major competition (olympics and worlds) since 2012:
In both men’s and women’s 400 IM the time it took to final at the 2016 olympics was slower than the time it took to final at the 2012 olympics. Maybe more and more athletes shy away from the “commitment”.

BDL Swim
6 months ago

I wonder how much of Hagino’s decision is related to mental state. 400 IM is on Day 1. If he gets smoked by Daiya Seto and others, that may set a negative tone for the rest of Hagino’s Olympics. The Japanese are much more sensitive to shame and the guilt of letting one’s country down, so Hagino probably doesn’t want to risk having a crappy Olympics because of a poor 400 IM.

Also, the 200 IM is pretty wide open, globally. He has a legitimate shot of winning that.

6 months ago

If you have that many options to choose from and your 400IM isn’t already a guaranteed medal for you, better drop it. It’s a brutal race and as Phelps has demonstrated in 2012 it doesn’t show mercy to anyone.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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