Kosuke Hagino outraced defending world champion Daiya Seto in the men’s 400-meter individual medley final on the first day of the 90th Japan national championships at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center on Thursday.
Seto, who won the gold medal in the event at last year’s world championships in Barcelona, Spain, closely followed Hagino for the first 100 meters. But Hagino widened the lead over fellow 19-year-old swimmer during the backstroke portion of the race afterward, and wound up posting an easy win with a time of 4 minutes, 7.88 seconds. Seto took second in 4:12.30.
Hagino had a legitimate chance to break his own national record, but fell 0.27 seconds short. He appeared to run out of the gas over the final 25 meters or so.
“I’m relieved to have won,” said Hagino, who is scheduled to compete in five more events at nationals. “But I was looking for the (new) record and it was disappointing I could not do it.”
The tournament also serves as a qualifying trial for August’s Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, and both Hagino and Seto are expected to be named to the national squad for the meet.
In the men’s 100-meter breaststroke final, 22-year-old Yasuhiro Koseki finished first in 1:00.07, and ahead of former national champ Ryo Tateishi. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima, who entered the meet as the three-time defending champion in the event, finished seventh in 1:00.67.
“I think I did a good job,” said Kitajima, who has resumed practicing lately. “I was hoping that I could compete for a podium finish, though. But it was a very close race.”
The 31-year-old Kitajima, however, was a little harsh on the younger swimmers.
“Nobody had a very good time,” he said. “I want them to do better. Koseki is capable of doing it and he should get (a boost) out of the competition here to the world.
“I’m here to stimulate these young guys, so they’ll be able to compete internationally.”
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Kanako Watanabe, who competed in the London Olympics two years ago, won the women’s 100-meter breaststroke in 1:06.53, a new high school national record.