In this afternoon’s prelims of the men’s 400m IM event, Japanese powerhouse Kosuke Hagino established himself as one of the front-runners to claim gold. Already collecting hardware in this event back at the 2012 Olympic Games earning bronze, Hagino nabbed the 3rd seed out of prelims in Rio, clocking a time of 4:10.00.
Hagino swam in heat 3 of 4, yet visibly shut his race down with the last 50m, coasting into the finish with a relaxed, long arm. The fact he still cracked off the 3rd-fastest time of the field points to the fact that the 21-year-old doesn’t feel pressure at these Games.
Prior to the opening ceremony’s kick off, Hagino told South China Morning Post, “I really don’t feel the pressure that much. Of course, American swimmers have dominated in the past but that’s not going to stop me going out and trying to win gold.”
The past American dominance in this event stemmed from Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, both of whom are not swimming the race in Rio. Phelps opted out of swimming the event entirely at U.S. Trials, while Lochte finished 3rd and out of event qualification in Omaha.
“I just want to win, that’s all,” Hagino says plainly. “Everything else is just noise. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t feel any pressure but it doesn’t eat away at me. I let it ooze into my body and I use it as nutrition. It fuels me.”
He feels he has the right physical faculties to get the job done, too, as Hagino says, “I’m in race shape, my body feels pumped up.”
“I’m in the best shape of my career. I’m swimming better than ever day after day and that’s giving me great confidence. I’m ready to go.”
Hagino will need to hold off America’s Chase Kalisz and teammate Daiya Seto to get atop the podium, not to mention the other variables lurking the field. American Jay Litherland is also a podium contender, as is Great Britian’s Max Litchfield.