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Hagino smashes two records at nationals

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japan’s latest rising swim star Kosuke Hagino dominated the pool as he set a pair of national records in the third day of the 90th national championships at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center on Saturday.

The 19-year-old Toyo University student, who registered in six different events in the annual tourney, first took the water in the men’s 400-meter freestyle and cruised to the win in a time of 3 minutes, 43.90 seconds, breaking his own national record that he notched last summer by 0.92 seconds.

Then, about 40 minutes later, he came back for the men’s 200-meter individual medley and clocked 1:55.38, 0.36 seconds quicker than the previous national record, that he also set at nationals last year, for the third straight crown in the event.

“Through training I have built more confidence,” said Hagino, who won silver medals in the events at last year’s world championships in Barcelona, Spain. “I was motivated to swim faster than the national records today, and I was able to do that, so that was good.”

Hagino, who has now triumphed in four of the five events he’s competed in, is seeking one more trophy on the final day in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, in which he is expected to have a close battle with Olympic medalist Ryosuke Irie.

“I’m sure Irie’s going to have a good time,” said Hagino, who won five titles in a single national championships a year ago. “Hopefully, I can keep up with him and have a good time, too.”

The national championships is a qualifying trial for Augusts’ Pan Pacific Championships and September’s Asian Games. Hagino has clinched berths on the national squad in all the five events he has competed in at nationals so far.

Meanwhile, Hagino’s rival, Daiya Seto, settled for third place, 2.54 seconds behind Hagino in the 200 IM. But earlier that day, he earned his first national-championships title with a 200-meter butterfly victory in 1:54.84.

“I was looking for the 200 butterfly title and managed to win it, so I’m happy,” said Seto, who won Japan a 400-IM gold medal at worlds last year.

Veteran two-time Olympic individual medalist Takeshi Matsuda finished in fifth place in 1:56.94 in the 200 IM.

In the men’s 50-meter backstroke, former world champion Junya Koga out-swam Irie for the victory in 24.68, clinching his first place on the national team in a while.

In the women’s 200-meter IM, 17-year-old Kanako Watanabe grabbed her second title in the tournament with a time of 2:11.04.

In the women’s 200 butterfly, London Olympic bronze medalist Natsumi Hoshi completed her fifth consecutive title in the event at nationals.