Ryo Tateishi laid down the gauntlet to two-time double Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima after obliterating the field in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke at the national short-course championships on Sunday.
Tateishi, who broke Kitajima’s record in the 100 breaststroke a day earlier, won in 2 minutes, 3.82 seconds, more than 2.5 seconds faster than runner-up Yukihiro Takahashi.
The 22-year-old Tateishi will face Kitajima, who did not compete in the two-day meet as he continues to train in Los Angeles, at the national championships from April 2-8, which serve as a qualifier for this summer’s London Olympics.
“I don’t want to just go to the Olympics, but I want to go as the best swimmer from Japan,” said Tateishi, who is aiming for his first trip to the Summer Games. “I don’t want to be just somebody alongside Kitajima.
“I know everyone competing in April wants to go to the Olympics, but I feel stronger about it more than anyone. I plan on being at my peak for the qualifying.”
Tateishi came within 0.87 of Kitajima’s mark in the 200. He regrets not pacing himself better early in the race, especially given the gap in the competition.
“I took too many strokes during the first 50 meters,” Tateishi said. “I still need more stamina. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Satomi Suzuki nearly completed a treble in the women’s breaststroke, after winning the 100 on Saturday and rewriting the Japanese record in the 50 twice in the preliminaries and the final (30.23) on Sunday.
She was, however, foiled in the 200 by 15-year-old sensation Kanako Watanabe who pulled ahead over the last five meters to win in 2:19.14 as Suzuki faded to end in third in 2:21.68.
Suzuki said early on, she swallowed a gob of water while coming up to breathe which threw her off the rest of the way. Miho Takahashi came second in 2:19.35.
“I panicked a little,” said Suzuki, who was named the meet’s most outstanding swimmer along with Tateishi. “It took a lot out of me late in the race.”
Watanabe continued to rise fast ahead of the April qualifying, and is already receiving hype as the second coming of Barcelona teen gold medalist Kyoko Iwasaki.
“When I raced against (Suzuki) in the 100, she made her move early and I was expecting her to do the same today,” Watanabe said. “I knew it would come down to the second half, which is where I’m at my best.
“This has been a great experience for April.”
She drew singular praise from Suzuki, who could very well end up as her teammate in London this summer.
“Kanako is incredible,” Suzuki said. “To be able to swim the race she had planned at her age is so impressive.”
In the men’s 50 breaststroke, Yuki Okajima tied Tateishi’s national record, touching the wall first in 26.66.