With the tragedy of destruction and pending nuclear threat in Japan, the planned National Swimming Championships had to be postponed and moved. The new incarnation of the event is very much scaled back and serves a much nobler cause. Aside from appointing the competitors for the upcoming World Championships and World University Games, the meet is being held for the purposes of charity. It is with that footnote that allows a chink in the moral fortitude to allow oneself to consider this meet with an eye on competitiveness, for any increased publicity in the event can only hope to serve in the reconstruction of the lives of the Japanese.
The new location is at the Hironoshin Furuhashi Memorial Swimming Center in Hamamatsu. Hamamatsu, which lies south of Tokyo, largely escaped damage despite lying on the coast, and has also been named as the new home of a major gymnastics competition in June.
The fans in attendance were treated to some spectacular swimming on the 1st of 3 days of competition, including several National Records broken.
Perhaps the most impressive of these records fell at the hands of Kosuke Miyamato, who became the first Japanese man ever under 15 minutes (and second in the world this year) with a winning mark of 14:57.56. This is a huge jump for a man who finished last season with no better than a 15:19 in this event. At only 21-years old, he has a ton of upslide in this event.
Another impressive mark was broken by Haruka Ueda in the women’s 200 free. Her time of 1:57.37 just barely nipped her old mark of 1:57.38, set in 2009. The 3rd record to go down was that in the women’s 200 fly. Natsumi Hoshi handily beat the old National Record with her winning time of 2:06.05. The previous mark (2:06.38) was her own as well, and had stood since 2008. That time moves her to 4th in the world rankings.
Breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima, who is probably the biggest draw for the Japanese team at this meet, did not disappoint. He posted a 59.44 to win the 100 breaststroke that is easily (by half a second) the best time in the world this year, and reaffirms that he is the favorite in this event this summer in Shanghai.
The biggest superstar on the women’s side is Aya Terakawa, and on this first day of competition she was able to take a run in her best event: the 100 backstroke. She blasted off a 59.17. Aside from standing easily as the top time in the world in 2011, that mark is only .04 off of her best time from last season. The runner-up in the race is the future of Japanese backstroking: Shiho Sakai. At only 20-years old, she’s already one of the best 200 backstrokers in the world, and her 1:00.03 shows of great things to come for her 200 backstroke later in the competition.
The men’s backstrokers put up some fireworks too. Ryosuke Irie won in a 53.10, which missed only by a sliver (.01) his best mark from last season, and puts him ahead of Liam Tancock as the second-fastest in the world this year (though still well behind Camille Lacourt).
Another top-10 time was posted in the women’s 100 breaststroke, by Satomi Suzuki. Her 1:07.68 ranks her 10th in the world in 2011. Kanako Watanabe was just behind her in 2nd in 1:07.99, which puts her in a tie for 15th.