• Kyodo


Kosuke Hagino qualified for the Rio Olympics in two more events after winning the men’s 200-meter freestyle at the national championships on Wednesday.

The nationals double as qualifying for the Olympics.

Hagino, who is already bound for Rio de Janeiro in the 400 individual medley, comfortably beat Takeshi Matsuda by 1.38 seconds, touching the wall in 1 minute, 45.50 seconds.

Hagino is confident of a podium finish in the race this summer as long as he can stay close to the pace turning for home.

“The guys overseas like to push it from the start so I need to keep up with them for the first 150 meters,” Hagino said. “I feel like I’ve got a better closing rush than anyone so I just need to be in striking distance for the last 50.”

Hagino, Matsuda and the third- and fourth-place finishers — Knight Ehara and Yuki Kobori — will team up for the 4×200 freestyle relay. It will be Hagino’s first Olympic relay event, while Matsuda will be making his fourth trip to the Summer Games.

“It’s refreshing,” Hagino said. “The joy you get from the relay is different. I genuinely think we’ve got a shot at a medal.”

In the women’s 200 free, 15-year-old wunderkind Rikako Ikee continued to impress, finishing first in 1:57.39, just 0.2 off the Japan record.

Ikee failed to meet the race’s qualifying standard of 1:56.82, but will enter the 4×200 freestyle relay in Rio along with Chihiro Igarashi, Sachi Mochida and Tomomi Aoki.

“I was only 0.2 away from the record so yeah, it would’ve been nice to break it,” Ikee said. “The four of us have been talking about going together so this is great.”

Kanako Watanabe (1:06.57) and Satomi Suzuki (1:06.72) came in one-two in the women’s 100 breaststroke to punch their tickets to Rio.

Watanabe had already qualified in the 200 as the reigning world champion. Suzuki won silver in the 200 and bronze in the 100 at the London Games four years ago.

“I gave it everything I had today,” said the 19-year-old Watanabe, who is headed to her second Olympics. “I felt at ease because I already had a spot on the team. I want to head to Rio with a lot of confidence.”

In the men’s 100 backstroke, Ryosuke Irie and Junya Hasegawa topped the board in 53.26 and 53.49, respectively, to book their place on the Rio team.

“It’s a relief to have made the team but at the same time, I know I don’t stand a chance on the world stage with the time I had today,” said Irie, who won three medals in London including a bronze in the 100.

“I’ve been doing more work for the 200 than the 100 so hopefully I can put it all together for the 200.

“As all the veterans have been saying, you can’t not think about the Olympics at this meet. It’s difficult to do what you need to do here.”

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