NAGOYA – Kosuke Hagino was made to work again at the national swimming championships Friday, when he claimed a narrow victory in the men’s 200-meter freestyle.
The Rio Olympic gold medalist came from behind over the last 50 meters to win in 1 minute, 47.29 seconds for his first title of the meet at Nippon Gaishi Arena.
“The race unfolded the way I wanted it to, but I was kind of surprised by how slow my time was,” said Hagino, who holds the national record of 1:45.23. “But this is what happens when you haven’t competed in a while. You can only learn how to race by actually racing.
“I still have three events left and I need to focus on them.”
The meet doubles as a qualifier for the world championships in Budapest in July.
Meanwhile, the women’s 400 individual medley produced a bright new star in Yui Ohashi, who obliterated the Japan record by more than three seconds, winning in 4:31.42. Ohashi finished more than six seconds ahead of runner-up Sakiko Shimizu.
“I’m happy but shocked myself at the same time,” said Ohashi, who was third last year at the nationals, failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
“Making the team for the world championships was my goal all along so I can relax for now. Compared to last year, I’m just swimming the 400 IM more. I know how to swim the race now and I’ve improved in every stroke. Everything has added up.
“It’ll be my first big international meet. I felt good during the heats and after speaking with coach (Norimasa Hirai), we agreed I should be aggressive from the start.”
Ohashi, a fourth-year student at Toyo University, said Hirai had been telling her since returning from altitude training in Spain this spring that she could hit 4:31. But she was skeptical.
“I only believed 10 percent of what he said when he told me I could swim a 4:31,” Ohashi said. “4:33, I thought I had a good shot, but I’m just really surprised.”
Yasuhiro Koseki captured his second title of the meet, rewriting two-time double Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima’s nationalrecord in the 50 breaststroke and winning in 27.23.
“When I’m putting up times like this, I think it says a lot about the kind of shape I’m in at the moment,” Koseki said. “I hope to keep it up in the 200 on the last day.”
In the women’s 50 breast, Satomi Suzuki set a national record of 30.66 to qualify for her second event in Budapest.
Suzuki, who held off Kanako Watanabe (31.34) for the victory, said she wanted to make up for finishing second to the up-and-coming Reona Aoki in Thursday’s 100, the other race Suzuki has qualified in.
“I had a frustrating time in the 100 yesterday,” Suzuki said. “I wanted to show my strength in the 50 and if I could do that, I thought I had a shot at the record.”
Rikako Ikee triumphed in the 200 free (1:57.07) for her second title of the competition.
Kohei Yamamoto won the men’s 1,500 freestyle (15:03.90) but did not meet the qualifying standard for Budapest.
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