2016 Olympic Champion in the women’s 200m breaststroke, Rie Kaneto, has been awarded the Citizens Medal of Honor in her home nation of Japan. The gold medalist was recognized by her Hiroshima Prefecture over the weekend as she was handed a bronze statue of honor from the region’s governor Hidehiko Yuzaki.
In a rough translation of his congratulatory comments, Yuzaki said that Kaneto ‘helped all of the junior swimmers in Hiroshima Prefecture to believe in themselves.’
Kaneto has experienced what some would consider unlikely success over the past year, in light of the fact that the now-28-year-old found herself failing to make the 2012 Olympic team after having been in Japan’s line-up at just 19 at the Beijing Games. Kaneto considered quitting the sport several times until she grinded her way to a breakthrough, cranking out a new national record (and All Comers Record) in the 200m breaststroke while competing at the Aquatic Super Series in Perth, Australia in early 2016.
She followed that up with another record-breaking performance at Japan’s Olympic Trials in April, touching in a monster time of 2:19.65, a time which checks in as the 6th fastest performance of all time. Her confidence-building swims finally came to a head in Rio, where she beat out Russia’s Yulia Efimova to stand atop the podium at 27 years of age.