No National Records went down on day three of the 2012 “Japan Swim” Japanese Olympic Trials meet, after three were broken in the first two days, but there were still plenty of scares that speaks to the overall resurgence of Japanese Swimming.
Men’s 200 Free
Takeshi Matsuda, coming in with the top overall seed, took the win in this 200 free in 1:45.96. That’s the best time of his career, and with him scratching the 400 this year (which is his better event – and a big surprise), he’s put all of his marbles in this 200 basket. But with the improved speed, my guess would be that he’s going after an explosive 100 freestyle time to shore up the Japanese medley relay.
The National Record holder Yuuki Kobori took 2nd in 1:47.71 – which is enough to put him on the Olympic Team, but nowhere near enough to put him in contention for a final in London.
Syo Sotodate and Chiaki Ishibashi would round out the 800 free relay, if Japan chooses to enter one.
Women’s 200 Free
In the women’s version of the same race, Haruka Ueda took the victory in 1:57.41, which is within .04 of her National Record set at last year’s meet. At 24, it’s hard to know if matching times from last year would indicate that she’s got a faster swim in her for the Olympics (she didn’t improve from last year’s Trials to Worlds).
Hanae Ito took 2nd in 1:58.13, followed by Yayoi Matsumoto (1:59.44) and Aya Takano (1:59.46). 16-year old Chihiro Igarashi also was udner the two-minute barrier in 1:59.73.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
Much like Kosuke Kitajima did in the men’s 100 breaststroke, in this women’s race Satomi Suzuki re-established herself as the leader of Japanese breaststroking by winning in 1:06.80, which is the second-best time in the world this year. That’s the best we’ve seen from her in textile, and puts her on to the Olympic Team.
She will be joined by Mina Matsushima, who also didn’t have a great year in 2011 but is returning to form with a 1:07.54. That just barely out-touched a hard-finishing Fumiko Kawanabe, the veteran of the group, in 1:07.56.
15-year old Kanako Watanabe had a very disappointing time in this finals session to finish only 6th in 1:08.13. That’s more than a second slower than the Japan Open in May where she had her gigantic breakout. The competition will be no-less fierce in the 200, her specialty, so she’ll have to get things figured out before then.
Men’s 100 Backstroke
Ryosuke Irie topped the men’s 100 back in 52.91, which is the second-best time in the world in 2012 and puts him in great position to repeat his bronze from the World Championships. Unlike we’ve seen from a lot of the Chinese swimmers this week, that time also makes him faster than he was from his January Australian rendezvous. Though the Japanese are infamous for swimming very-fast in season (and about matching those times at Championship meets), Irie has shown the ability to drop a few tenths at season’s-end, which in the current backstroke atmosphere should leave him well on the podium.
Keep in mind that one of the two swimmers who placed ahead of him in Shanghai (France’s Jeremy Stravius) didn’t even make the team in the event this year, so even with the three Americans (David Plummer, Nick Thoman, and Matt Grevers) nipping at his heels, I think that Irie is a top-three swimmer in London.
Japan, who has hugely underrated depth, again put a second swimmer onto the Olympic Team in the form of Junya Koga (54.14). Koga is one of the fastest 100 backstrokers in history, but hasn’t been able to figure things out in textile. Given his relatively-advanced age (in terms of the history of Japan’s swimmers, 25 is fairly old) it might be too late for him to figure it out.
Yuuki Shirai was 3rd in 54.22.
The biggest semifinal swim on Wednesday came from Aya Terakawa who topped the women’s 100 back in 59.75, which already puts her in the world’s top 5 this year.
There was also a 2:07.42 in the semifinals of the women’s 200 fly from Natsumi Hoshi and a 2:13.21 from Izumi Katou in the semis of the women’s 200 IM. That was followed closely by Emu Higuchi in 2:13.40, which is impressive as she’s only 15.