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

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

he’s been solid in the 400IM since he came back after taking a year off but considering how much work you need to put in to actually swim the 400IM, but I’m not surprised.

remember when phelps swam the 400IM in London after barely training for the event since Beijing.
he barely made it out of the prelims and then didn’t medal in the final (got 4th).

if phelps couldn’t do it, I’m not sure hagino can do it.

but yea i agree with the rest of the comments that the 200 back, 200 im double is a nasty double.

3 years ago

At this exact moment his best shot at a medal would have been the 400 IM.
The level of competition in the 400 IM droped significantly. No even Chase Kalizs remain fit for the longer IM. I just can’t see having making the team in both 200 back and 200 im. He has to chose one. In the 200 Fr he will make the relay for sure, and maybe an individual spot.

3 years ago

Someone’s been talking to Michael lmao

3 years ago

Even hagino is afraid to race lochte in 400 im

Reply to  sqimgod
3 years ago

Hagino is just wiser than Lochte.

3 years ago

Wise man. The 400 IM is a destroyer of men and a race strictly for the young.

3 years ago

At what point does a serious convo start about not putting the 2IM and 2back so close together? This combo is realllly common.

Reply to  THEO
3 years ago

Agreed. If they are to be on the same day why not put them at opposite ends of the program? I believe that in Tokyo the only event in between is the final of the women’s 100FS. Ridiculous.

3 years 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.

BDL Swim
3 years 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.

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.

Read More »