Reigning 400m IM Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino has been relatively quiet over the last year, although his journey may indeed wind up peaking at just the right time.
While his compatriot Daiya Seto was breaking world records and taking names, 25-year-old Hagino was on his road to recovery from mental and physical burnout. The burnout culminated with Hagino’s decision to forego the Japanese national team training camp in Spain in the spring of 2019, an important tollgate heading into that year’s Japan Swim and Japan Open.
Hagino ultimately opted out of both those competitions, forfeiting any chance of qualifying for the 2019 FINA World Aquatic Championships.
When Hagino announced his withdrawal from the Japan Swim, the Bridgestone swimmer stated, “I’ve been unable to achieve the results I had hoped for since the 2017 season. “As the gap between my targets and reality has widened, it has become harder for me to maintain my motivation.”
You can catch up on Hagino’s rocky roads of 2018 and 2019 through our coverage here.
Since that time, however, the versatile athlete has been steadily making improvements to build confidence, including snagging a bronze medal at the Tokyo stop of the FINA World Cup last August after a 5-month hiatus.
In November, Hagino sneaked onto Japan’s national team at the 11th hour by way of his 200m IM victory at the Japanese Amateur Championships. That was after already having clocked his fastest 200m backstroke effort in 2 years earlier at the same meet.
On a personal level, Hagino got married and welcomed his first child into the world last winter. Entering 2020, Hagino said this past January, “I think it’s going to be a big year, and I want to make it the best.”
However, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into any immediate comeback plans on an Olympic level, with the Tokyo-hosted Games ultimately being pushed back to July 2021. Or did it?
“If the Olympics were coming this year, I think it would have been tough,” Hagino told Asian media this week after having time to reflect. (Sanspo)
“I prepared 100%, but it was tough. My confidence, ability, and preparation were all not 100.”
With more time on his hands, the new dad is revisiting his technique, focusing on mechanics and details in order to get back to form against the likes of rivals such as aforementioned Seto, Americans Chase Kalisz, and Jay Litherland, and even newcomer Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand.
“My technique had become messy. I’m definitely better even now in this area than during the time prior to the Olympic postponement.
“Before then, I felt like I was running out of time. But, since I don’t have any immediate meets to race at right now, I can think about my swimming slowly and deliberately.”
“That’s why I want to cherish this gift of another year.”