Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
It feels like we’ve been saying this about several years now. But 2021 is really, truly set to be the first Olympic year without a Phelps or a Lochte in either men’s IM field.
Instead, we’ve got a different duo of accomplished countrymen vying to be the favorite for Olympic gold. Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino went head-to-head at the Japan Open this week, with Seto taking top billing in the 400 IM.
The 26-year-old Seto has been on a tear the past few years, taking over as a top medal contender in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 fly. In fact, he won 2019 World Championships golds in both IM races, stepping into the role of retired Phelps and then-suspended Lochte.
Hagino, though, was at one point seen as the heir apparent to the Phelps/Lochte IM dominion. Hagino won 2016 Olympic gold in the 400 IM, with Phelps bowing out of that event late in his career and Lochte missing the U.S. Olympic team in the longer IM race.
So the Japan Open showdown was truly a clash of titans, with both swimmers among the favorites to win this summer’s Olympic gold medals. Seto went 4:12.57, a solid statement swim that ranks him #3 in the world this season and #2 in the world for the calendar year 2021.
In fact, Seto’s in-season performance was just half a second off what it took to win World Champs bronze in 2019, suggesting a rested Seto could be in line for a massive swim in Tokyo later this year.