Japan’s Masato Sakai, silver medalist in the men’s 200m fly at the 2016 Olympic Games, has undergone surgery this week to address an ongoing Ganglion cyst affecting one of his shoulders.
Per the 23-year-old’s Instagram account dated Thursday, August 30th, the surgery on his right shoulder is aimed at relieving Sakai of shoulder pain, something he says he as suffered from ‘for a long time.’ He has already started back up in practice, but will be opting out of competing at least through the month of September. “I will do my best to rehabilitate it so everyone can see me stronger!,” says Sakai.
Japan’s Short Course World Championships Trials are set for mid-October, so we’ll have to wait and see if Sakai is ready to contend for a spot on the roster for Hangzhou.
Sakai was surprisingly absent from this year’s Pan Pacific Championships and Asian Games, having missed qualification at the 2 qualifying meets this Spring. Sakai wasn’t able to drive his times into the sub-1:55 range, settling for 1:56.81 in Japan Swim in April and 1:55.06 at the Japan Open.
Prior to 2018, Sakai has been a mainstay on the 200m fly scene for several years. Sakai established himself as a major player, finishing a respectable 4th at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Australia. Then, at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Sakai produced a solid time of 1:54.24 to place 4th, a statement swim leaving him just .14 outside of the medals.
In Rio’s 200m fly final, Sakai stormed from 6th place at the 150m mark to come within striking distance of American icon Michael Phelps. Sakai wound up with a painstakingly close silver in a new personal best effort of 1:53.40 to Phelps’ gold medal-winning 1:53.36.
The Waseda University club swimmer did claim gold at the Asian Swimming Championships that same year, beating domestic rival Seto by almost a full second to clock 1:54.53 for a new championship record. He inflicted additional damage at the 2017 Japan Swim, clocking 1:53.71, the 2nd best time of his career, to win the gold at that meet and finish the year ranked as the #2 swimmer in the world in the event. Only South Africa’s Chad Le Clos proved faster in 2017 (1:53.33).
Since that streak, however, Sakai has been swimming quietly under the radar, only making an appearance at the Tokyo short course meters stop of the FINA World Cup last November and the Japan Student Championships.