Watanabe vs. Koseki vs. Sato Among Top 5 Races To Watch In Tokyo


  • Saturday, October 17th & Sunday, October 18th
  • Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre
  • SCM (25m)
  • Entries (in Japanese)

The International Swimming League (ISL) is kicking off this weekend in Budapest, but two teams have a bye week, including the Toronto Titans and the Tokyo Frog Kings. As such, participants in the latter squad have the opportunity to race for national titles at the 62nd Japan Short Course Championships starting Saturday, October 17th.

We already reported how 26-year-old Daiya Seto has withdrawn from the competition, despite his name appearing among the entrants. Seto pulled himself from this meet in addition to relinquishing himself as Olympic team captain as part of the fallout from admitting to an extramarital affair. You can read more about the swimming impact of that situation here.

However, his Frog Kings teammates such as Kosuke Hagino, Yui Ohashi, Ryosuke Irie, and more are lined up to compete here across the two-day meet. As such, let’s take a look at our top 5 races to watch.

Top 5 Races to Watch at 2020 Japan Short Course Championships

#1 – Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Buckle yourself in for a possibly historic men’s 200m breaststroke, as the likes of Shoma Sato, Ippei Watanabe, and Yasuhiro Koseki are all slated to contest the event this weekend.

All 3 men have demonstrated their utterly world-class abilities in the long course edition of the 2breast, with Watanabe owning the national record in 2:06.67, Sato representing the nation’s 2nd fastest performer ever in 2:07.02, and Koseki having wracked up a career full of successful swims including a lifetime best of 2:07.18.

Short course-wise, it was Koseki who took the national title at the 2019 edition of this meet, hitting a near national record of 2:01.78. Watanabe tied Kozuki Kohinata, with both men logging a mark of 2:04.16 as co-runners up. Sato was well back in 6th place with a time of 2:06.16; however, with the speed at which Sato has exponentially been improving in the long course version of the event, look for a potentially explosive swim from the 19-year-old this weekend.

#2 – Men’s 200 Freestyle

Eager to race again after his positive doping test scare, World Championships silver medalist Katsuhiro (Katsuo) Matsumoto is ready to rumble in the 200m free event.

Shortly after snagging silver in Gwangju last year, Matsumoto ripped a new national record in this short course 2free while competing at the 2019 edition of these championships. Matsumoto clocked a huge lifetime best of 1:42.41 to slice .10 off of Kosuke Hagino’s previous national standard that had been on the books since 2014.

Among those joining Matsumoto in this men’s 2free race this weekend will be Naito Ehara and Yuki Kobori, both of whom rank among the top 10 Japanese performers all-time in the event.

#3 – Women’s 100 Backstroke

Japan is still searching for a consistent women’s 100m backstroker for its medley relay chances. After now-retired Aya Terakawa produced a bronze medal-worthy performance individually at the 2012 Olympic Games, Natsumi Sakai, just 15 years of age at the time, represented the nation’s highest finish of 26th in the women’s 100m back event in Rio.

Last year in Gwangju, Sakai hit a time of 59.56 (LCM) to place 6th in the World Championships final to help spark a trend of improvement, which Rio Shirai continued with her first sub-minute swim of 59.42 (LCM) at last year’s Student Championships.

Shirai rocked a SCM time of 56.00 last year to take this meet title, so she has some fuel behind her to repeat this year ahead of Sakai, Sayaka Akase, Anna Konishi and more would-be contenders.

#4 Women’s 200 Freestyle

A host of women are set to contest the 200m free, including last year’s champion Rio Shirai. Just as in the aforementioned backstroke, the now 21-year-old put up a head-turning time at the 2019 Japan Short Course Championships, clocking a mark of 1:53.59 to become Japan’s 2nd fastest 200m freestyle ever.

Runner-up Chihiro Igarashi, also in the race again this year, settled for silver over a second behind in 1:54.66. However, Igarashi has beaten Shirai in the long course version of the 2free, so she may deliver just what it takes to top the podium here.

Sachi Mochida, Tomomi Aoki, Nagisa Ikemoto and Miyu Namba are also all viable candidates, depending on who brings their A-game in this highly competitive event.

#5 Men’s 400 IM

In Seto’s absence, Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino is the headliner in this men’s 400m IM event, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy win.

As we have well-documented, Hagino took a nearly 5-month hiatus last year to work on his physical and mental health. He bounced back in late 2019 by making the Japanese national team by a fingernail at the 11th hour, but that was enough to get his fire burning heading into this extra Olympic year.

Hagino has already raced the short course 400 IM already this year, turning in a performance of 4:06.13 at January’s New Year Meet. His personal best rests at the 4:01.17 he produced nearly 6 years ago. We’ll see what he throws down with the likes of Takeharu Fujimori and Ippei Miyamoto chasing the Olympic icon down this weekend.

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3 years ago

Shoma Sato is actually Japan’s 3rd-fastest ever in the 200 breaststroke. Akihiro Yamaguchi went 2:07.01 in 2012.

The unoriginal Tim
3 years ago

I hope Seto has enough time to get sorted before the olympics. He looked an almost certainty this year in the 4IM but stress can ruin anyone. I hope he still has his day.

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