INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – Kosuke Hagino succumbed to the class of world and Olympic champion Sun Yang in the men’s 400-meter freestyle, missing out on his fourth gold medal of the Asian Games on Tuesday.
Hagino settled for silver, 1.25 seconds behind China’s Sun, who clocked 3 minutes, 43.23 seconds in his signature event. Park Tae-hwan of South Korea came in a distant third, 5.10 out of first place.
“These two guys aren’t just the best in Asia, but in the entire world,” Hagino said. “I fell short of my personal best tonight but if I get another chance, I want to take another shot at them.”
In the much-hyped rematch of Sunday’s 200 free, Hagino led for the first 100 meters but let Sun set the pace from that point on.
While Hagino kept up as Park faded over the last 100 meters — the Korean was more than 2 seconds off the pace at the last turn — Sun never relinquished the lead and captured his first gold of the meet.
“Hagino and Park are world class,” said Sun, who had injured his hand turning in the 200. “I swam my heart out, which says a lot about the rise in the level of Asian swimming.”
Hagino was disappointed he wasn’t more aggressive during the journey on an evening when Japan didn’t win a single swimming gold. Japan still leads with 24 medals overall, but China has 11 golds to Japan’s seven.
“I just saw my lap times and from the 100 to the 300, the pace was too slow,” the 20-year-old said. “The race went just the way I had planned it (with head coach Norimasa Hirai), but maybe I should have upped it from 300, 350. That leaves me with regrets.
“In hindsight, I should’ve kept pushing it even after passing the 100 mark. But that’s where the experience of the other two came into play. I still have a lot to learn.”
Hagino, whose next race will be the 400-meter individual medley on Wednesday, said he enjoyed the two races against Sun and Park, which have dominated the talk of the swimming competition here.
“In the end, it came down to a difference in potential,” he said. “I’m just glad to have swum against the two. In international meets like this, the one who swims to his or her potential wins.”
“After the 200 I had, I wasn’t worried about what the other two were doing. If anything, I was trying to dictate the race and get them to worry about me.
“I’ve had an incredible time swimming against them.”
China topped the podium six times, while Japan won five silvers including Hagino’s. The others went to Shinri Shioura in the men’s 50 free and Kazuki Kohinata in the 200 breaststroke and in the women’s events, the 4×200 freestyle relay and the 400 IM to Sakiko Shimizu.
Japan also won three bronzes — Miyuki Takemura in the women’s 50 backstroke, Yasuhiro Koseki in the men’s 200 breast and Kenta Ito in the men’s 50 free.
“We may not have won a gold medal tonight, but we won a bunch of silver and bronze,” said Yayoi Matsumoto of the women’s relay team. “We’re winning more medals than the last Asian Games, and I think that says a lot about the improvement of Japanese swimming.”
Hashimoto nabs cycling gold
Eiya Hashimoto won the men’s cycling omnium gold medal on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old from Gifu Prefecture scored 234 points to take the gold, two points ahead of South Korea’s Cho Ho-sung. Cheung King-lok of Hong Kong took the bronze with 229.
“I really never thought I could win,” said Hashimoto. “My form has never been worse than it was yesterday and I was far down in the standings.
“I was out of the medals until the last points race started so I think I had good luck. At the end I gave it everything I had. I can’t believe I’ve won the gold medal.”
The omnium competition consists of six events held over two days including a time trial, a points race and an elimination race.
Similar in format to decathlon in athletics, it tests an athlete’s all-round ability, with cyclists needing sprinters legs and the ability to hold a high speed as well as being a tactician.
Omnium was held as a new event at the 2012 London Olympics.
Also Tuesday, Yuya Kamoto led Japan to a one-two podium finish in men’s individual all-around gymnastics.
With a top score of 87.950 points, the 20-year-old Kamoto, who led Japan to a team gold medal on Sunday, became the first Japanese man to win gold in the event since the 1974 Tehran Games.
He edged out teammate Masayoshi Yamamoto, who took silver with 87.500. South Korea’s Lee Sang-wook was third with 87.200.
“My target was to win gold medals in the team event, the all-around and an apparatus, so I’m two thirds of the way, and I’m relieved,” said Kamoto. “Now I’m aiming to take gold on the parallel bars.”