After superstar Rikako Ikee‘s shocking leukemia diagnosis, Japanese swimming is suffering another blow, as key leader Kosuke Hagino has abandoned plans to compete at his nation’s World Championships Trials meet of the Japanese Championships next month.
“I’ve been unable to achieve the results I had hoped for since the 2017 season,” Hagino said in a statement appearing on his own website.
“As the gap between my targets and reality has widened, it has become harder for me to maintain my motivation.”
We reported recently that, while Japanese superstars Daiya Seto and Yui Ohashi were putting on a show in the 400m IM event at the Konami Open earlier this month, fellow Hagino had bowed out of most of the meet. After registering a time of 4:23.66 for 7th seed in prelims of the 400m IM, Hagino opted out of the final and wound up scratching the remainder of the Chiba Prefecture-hosted meet. Hagino even went to the hospital where blood tests were conducted, finding no abnormalities.
Shortly after, the 24-year-old Bridgestone swimmer announced he was staying home from the national team’s training camp scheduled for Spain, instead trying to reboot himself with rest.
Japan National Team Head Coach Norimasa Hirai told Japanese media today, “In his current condition it would be really hard [for Hagino to perform well at the Japan Championships.]”
“He’s not in very good spirits. He needs to rest and when he decides to comes back, he needs to start swimming for himself.”
Hagino is the reigning 400m IM Olympic champion and holds his nation’s standards across the 200m and 400m freestyle events, as well as teh 200m IM and 400m IM, but has since struggled to come within range of those performances from 2014 and 2016, respectively.
As a nod to Hagino’s immense talent, however, the man is still ranked 3rd in the world this season in the 400m IM (4:15.57), 5th in the 200m IM (1:58.67) and 8th in the 200m free (1:47.83), so it’s not as if the Olympian has completely gone into the abyss.
Hirai further stated as to Hagino’s future, however, “The ball is in his court.”
“Nothing has been decided — it’s a clean slate, only he knows. It’s obviously not a plus that he’s not entered the nationals. It’s a critical situation for him but he has to stay positive.”
With April’s Japan Championships representing the primary opportunity for swimmers to qualify for Gwangju’s World Championships, Hagino’s participation this summer is now severely in doubt.