Watch Shoma Sato’s World-Class 2:06.7 200 Breaststroke


Start at 1:07:38

While competing on the final day of action at the 2021 Kosuke Kitajima Cup, 19-year-old Shoma Sato fired off a huge lifetime best of 2:06.78 to take the men’s 200m breaststroke.

In doing so, the man joins an exclusive club of 2:06-200m breaststrokers, which only includes World Record holder Anton Chupkov, Aussie Matt Wilson, fellow Japanese star Ippei Watanabe, and Dutchman Arno Kamminga.

After the race, Sato said he was surprised by his performance. “Being honest, I didn’t think I could produce a 2:06 this time but I did. I have the feeling I’m improving a lot faster than I ever expected. (Olympic Channel)

“It’s always in the last 50 when I can’t keep up with Chupkov’s time. I have to do a better job of closing out the race from hereon.”

Chupkov’s World Record-setting performance from the 2019 FINA World Championships included a 1:02.22 opener and a back half of 1:03.90. Tonight, Sato’s splits included 1:01.18/1:05.60.

“I’m starting to understand what it takes to be world class”, Sato said. “I’m at 2:06.7 now. I want to break the Japan record at the Japan Open and then the world record at the Olympic trials in April”.


As originally reported:

Japan’s Shoma Sato just became the world’s 4th fastest 200m breaststroker of all-time.

While competing on day 3 of the 2021 Kosuke Kitajima Cup, an annual competition known to render some eye-popping performances, Sato fired off a monster personal best of 2:06.78 to take the men’s 200m breast title.

The outing shaved .24 off of Sato’s previous lifetime best, which sat at the menacing 2:07.02 the teen already threw down this season at last October’s Japan Student Championships. That previous PB rendered Sato already among the best-ever as the 6th fastest performer all-time.

After capturing the top seed this morning in Tokyo with a solid heats swim of 2:08.25, Sato got to work in the final, splitting 1:01.18/1:05.60 to produce the 2:06.78 near-national record-breaking swim. Sato’s performance tonight falls just .11 outside of Ippei Watanabe‘s Japanese standard of 2:06.67, a time that once represented the World Record.

With his menacing 2:06.78, Sato, who just turned 19 last November, now joins an exclusive club of sub-2:07 performers, with the only other members being as follows to comprise the top 5 performers all-time:

  1. Anton Chupkov (RUS) – 2:06.12, 2019
  2. Matt Wilson (AUS) – 2:06.67, 2019
  3. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) – 2:06.67, 2017
  4. Shoma Sato (JPN) – 2:06.78, 2021
  5. Arno Kamminga (NED) – 2:06.85, 2020

Sato also overtakes Kamminga, who put up his 2:06.85 just last month, as the top swimmer in the world this season. But what does it tell us about the massive talent in this event that the top 2 swimmers at this point in pre-Olympic time are both 2:06? For extra reading, take a look at our analysis of the men’s 200m breaststroke over the last decade here.

The all-time top 5 performers are all active and vying for Olympic glory, which means we’re bound to see a potentially history-making set of prelims/semifinals/finals come this summer’s Olympic Games.

Before that, however, it very well may take a near-World Record to even make it onto the Japanese squad in this event, with Sato, Watanabe, Yasuhiro Koseki and others fighting for the two open Olympic roster spots up for the taking at April’s Japan Swim.

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8 months ago

This race in particular just shows that niether of the two (Watanabe or Koseki) are guaranteed a spot. we already have a pretty good idea that the olympics will be exciting for the 2br, but there is already competition just for selection. I think (almost) anyone in the top 6 (world) at the moment could bring it down under 2:06, and possibly before the olympics.

8 months ago

When a 2:06.7 in January is “only” “world-class”…this depth is getting insane

Poppin Ov
8 months ago

This might be a hot take but there really should be a rule that allows a 3rd swimmer for a country if they are top 10/16/20 etc. in the world for that year. It will be sad if one of these guys goes 2:07 and can’t compete.

Reply to  Poppin Ov
8 months ago

That would be crazy but almost seems fair. As long as each country that hits olympic quali times and wants to go can be represented with at least one swimmer. I would probably say only if they hit a top 8 time in the world before the games, then a third could be considered

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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