At the conclusion of the 2019 Japanese Swimming Championships, the first of two qualifying meets for this summer’s World Championships, the Japanese Swimming Federation announced a 17-strong line-up for Gwangju. The remaining swimmers will have an additional qualification opportunity at the Japan Open Swim taking place at the end of May.
Leadership heading into Gwangju and beyond will be of vital importance for the Japanese contingency as the host nation of the 2020 Olympic Games has suffered some major blows as of late. Teenage phenom and multiple Olympic medal hopeful Rikako Ikee announced in February that she was diagnosed with leukemia, a stunning announcement on its own, but especially considering the fact she earned the first-ever female Asian Games MVP award only months prior.
Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino then revealed he’d be opting out of the Japanese Championships to focus on his mental health after having difficulty keeping motivation and spirits up after his gold medal-high and followed by subsequent injury tending.
Finally, most recently, Olympic finalist Hiromasa Fujimori tested positive for a banned substance and is currently serving a suspension pending the investigation of the situation. He missed the Japanese Championships and, unless something major happens in the extremely near future, will miss the Japan Open swim, relinquishing his potential to earn a World Championships berth.
Despite these black clouds, stars like Seto and Ohashi stepped up to earn multiple qualification times in Tokyo. Seto clocked winning marks in the 200m fly and 200m/400m IM events to qualify for Gwangju, while Ohashi nailed QTs in the 200m and 400m IM. She’ll tackle the 200m fly next month.
As far as his captain role, Seto says from a training camp, “I want to create an atmosphere where everyone can do the best.”