Day 1 of the 2015 Japan Open saw several swimmers rock the world rankings with some stellar swims to start off the competition. The familiar prime-time names of Kosuke Hagino, Daiya Seto and Ryosuke Irie put the world on notice by laying down impressive races for the men, while Natsumi Hoshi rattled the world’s women 200 butterfliers with her own dominant performance.
The visiting Australian contingent claimed the meet’s first individual victory, with Jessica Ashwood taking the women’s 800m freestyle in a time of 8:31.85. Japan’s Chinatsu Satou finished about a second behind in 8:32.96 to essentially make the race a two-horse contest. Yuuna Kikuchi finished third in a time of 8:39.83.
The second individual Aussie win came in the form of Emma McKeon’s 1:56.79 winning 200m freestyle. She topped the field by well over a second to clock the 9th-fastest time in the world, although McKeon already holds the 3rd-swiftest (1:55.88) from her performance at Australia’s National Championships. Japan’s Rikako Ikee touched in second with a time of 1:58.01 today, followed by Chihiro Igarashi who finished in 1:58.96 for third.
Another visiting national earned a victory in the women’s events, as Great Britain’s Jessica Fullalove racked up the 100m backstroke win, stepping atop the podium in a time of 1:00.31. Although swift for this meet, Fullalove was not able to crack the world’s top 10 with that effort. Japan’s Sayaka Akase claimed second place in 1:01.16 and Natsumi Sakai nabbed third in 1:01.32.
The women’s 200m butterfly is where the pool really started heating up, as Natsumi Hoshi followed up her swift prelims performance (2:07.80) with even more of a statement. Hoshi touched the wall in 2:06.90 to slide into 5th in the world, just off of her performance from this meet last year where she won the Japan Open title in 2:06.34. Japanese teammate Sakiko Shimizu earned second place in today’s race in 2:09.26, while Haruo Itou settled for 3rd in 2:09.59. Australia’s Madeline Groves, is clearly using this as a training meet, clocking a relatively sluggish 2:11.99. For someone who holds the top time in the world at 2:05.41 from April’s Australian Nationals, a time over 6 seconds slower is more of an indication of where she is at training-wise than anything else.
The Japanese women’s fire continued to burn into the last event, with Kanako Watanabe dominating the 100m breaststroke. Watanabe’s 1:06.95 blew past the rest of the field, which included Australia’s Jessica Hansen, who wound up second in 1:07.53. Of Watanabe’s swim, her time today ranks her as 6th in the world, although she has proven to be even faster. Watanabe set a career-best of 1:05.88 for a new Japanese record at last year’s Japan Open; a time, which would remain as the 2nd-fastest in all of 2014 only behind Ruta Meilutyte’s 1:05.21.
Japanese star Kosuke Hagino started off the men’s events with a win in the 1500m freestyle, proving the man can essentially swim anything and swim it well at that. Hagino fell just short of a sub-15 clocking (15:05.35), but once again proves that he is a dangerous force with which to be reckoned across many events. He is slated to also make his mark at this meet in the 200 IM and 400 IM events against his in-country rival Daiya Seto.
Seto upped the ante yet again in what is becoming his event to lose, the men’s 200m butterfly. His winning time 1:54.46 now sits as number one in the world, out-touching his own previous mark of 1:54.63 from Japanese Nationals this past April. Last year’s Japan Open also saw Seto win the event, with a slightly slower time of 1:54.75, so the man is consistent. Masato Sakai tried to keep pace with Seto, but would wind up in second place in 1:55.08, a time that is now third in the world behind Seto’s two aforementioned marks. Masayuki Umemoto finished in third in 1:56.60, a time just outside of the world’s top ten.
The men’s 200m freestyle saw last year’s 3rd place winner move up a couple of steps, with Yuuki Kobori securing the win in 1:47.48, over a second faster than his 2014 performance. The next two finishers were just within half a second behind, with Reo Sakata touching in 1:47.85, followed by Australia’s David McKeon in 1:47.94. Although he holds the world’s 3rd-fastest time (1:45.82) in the 200m free, Japan’s usual big dog in this event, Hagino, opted not to swim having already raced the 1500.
Another consistent Japanese swimmer, Ryosuke Irie, made magic happen yet again, successfully defending his Japan Open 100m backstroke title. Although his time this year of 53.41 was off his 52.99 from 2014, it is still speedy enough to rank the performance 6th in the world. Irie already holds the 2nd-fastest performance thus far of 2015 with his 52.99 from Japanese Nats, a time that falls only 11/100 behind Chris Walker-Hebborn’s 52.88 from British Nationals. Junya Koga, just coming off of his 50m backstroke win at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Charlotte last weekend, touched today in 54.07 for runner-up behind Irie. Koga clocked a 54.42 for 3rd in this event in Charlotte.
Comparatively, the men’s 100m breaststroke event was slightly lackluster, with no man dipping beneath the 1:00-mark. Ryo Tateishi took home the win in 1:00.85, while teammates Kazuki Kohinata and Kazuki Hayashi finished in second and third in times of 1:00.80 and 1:01.03, respectively. Breaststroking legend, Kosuke Kitajima, finished the race in 1:01.28 for fifth place. The 33-year-old recently announced his retirement from the sport after his push for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Additional coverage on that announcement will be forthcoming.