Shibata outsprints Matsuda in 200 fly

Kyodo News

Ryuichi Shibata beat Takeshi Matsuda to win his third straight men’s 200-meter butterfly title and his first Olympic berth into the bargain at the National Swimming Championships on Friday.

Shibata touched the wall in a time of 1 minute, 55.57 seconds at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center, while Matsuda’s runnerup finish in 1:55.66 guaranteed him another spot at this summer’s Beijing Games.

“I thought if I overdid it early I would lose speed so I did my best to control myself over the first half of the race,” said Shibata.

“The time wasn’t great but I’ll save that for the summer. I want to come home from Beijing as a medalist.”

Matsuda will be competing in two disciplines in Beijing, having won his fifth consecutive 400-meter freestyle title on Tuesday.

“I was going for victory and a better time, but I was able to race aggressively,” said Matsuda. “I don’t think I can mix it with the world’s best with this sort of time, so I will be looking to have built up more strength by August.”

Athens Olympics silver medalist Takashi Yamamoto missed out on a place in the men’s 200 butterfly in Beijing after finishing third in 1:56.43.

In other events, Asami Kitagawa also earned herself an Olympic berth for the first time after winning the women’s 200 meters individual medley for the third time in a row with a time of 2:13.29.

Takuro Fujii won his first men’s 200 IM title in 2:00.30 and qualified for Beijing along with runnerup Ken Takakuwa (2:00.37).

Masayuki Kishida (22.69) and Kaori Yamada (25.71) won the men’s and women’s 50 freestyle, respectively, but neither time met the Olympic qualifying standards set by the Japan Swimming Federation.

Earlier in the day, Kosuke Kitajima eased into Saturday’s 200 breaststroke final with the fastest overall time of 2:10.37.

Ai Shibata qualified for the women’s 800 freestyle final with the second-fastest time of 8:33.98.