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Irie tops Hagino in 100-meter backstroke, spoils rival’s bid for six national titles

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Swimmer Kosuke Hagino’s bid to win a record six titles in a single meet at the national championships was crushed in his third race on Friday.

London Olympics bronze medalist Ryosuke Irie beat Hagino in the 100-meter backstroke race after Hagino earlier Friday won his second title of the 2014 meet in the 200 freestyle.

Irie, 24, who won the 100 backstroke bronze medal and the 200 backstroke silver medal in London, clocked 52.57 seconds, 0.11 seconds faster than Hagino.

Irie had also prevented Hagino, 19, from winning a sixth title at last year’s nationals when he triumphed in the younger rival’s final race, the 200-meter backstroke.

Hagino, the 400 individual medley bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games, still ended with five titles last year, a national record.

On Thursday, Hagino won the 400 IM national title for the third straight year.

“I still have a lot of work to do on such pinpointed skills as starts and turns. I did not swim well as a whole,” said Hagino, who tasted defeat only 20 minutes after winning the 200 freestyle.

“The result showed what I am capable of doing,” added Hagino, who won the 400 free and 200 IM silver medals at last year’s world championships.

“Mr. Irie was fast. I want to cling to him in the 200-meter (backstroke) as well,” said Hagino, who is aiming to win the 400 medley gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in a world-record time.

Hagino is set to race in the 400 frees and 200 IM on Saturday before wrapping up his nationals campaign in the 200 backstroke on Sunday.

Also Friday, Satomi Suzuki, who won three medals at the London Olympics, rewrote her national record in the women’s 50 meters breaststroke, winning in 31.30.