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Kosuke Hagino and Rikako Ikee head Japan roster for swimming double bill

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Ace Kosuke Hagino and teenage phenom Rikako Ikee were named to the provisional Japanese national team rosters for this summer’s Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo and Asian Games in Jakarta, the Japan Swimming Federation announced on Monday.

The country’s governing body for the sport has selected 22 swimmers for the Pan Pacs, which take place every four years, and 23 for the Asian Games, based on the results from the national championships that wrapped up Sunday at Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

The full rosters will be completed after next month’s Japan Open at Tatsumi.

Veteran backstroke swimmer Ryosuke Irie, men’s 200-meter breaststroke world record holder Ippei Watanabe, and women’s breaststroke swimmers Satomi Suzuki and Kanako Watanabe were other notable names to crack the teams.

Five swimmers — Hagino, Ikee, butterfly swimmer Nao Horomura, breaststroker Reona Aoki and individual medley specialist Yui Ohashi — attended a news conference at the National Training Center in Tokyo. Among them, Hagino was the only athlete to have previously competed at the Pan Pacs, for which the swimming competition will be held from Aug. 9-12 at Tatsumi.

“When I first competed in it, in Irvine in America, I was extremely nervous,” the 23-year-old Hagino said of the 2010 competition, which he competed in as a high school student. “I remember that the food wouldn’t go down my throat before my 400 individual medley competition.”

Horomura, 19, is making his top national team debut. The Waseda University student out-swam Rio de Janeiro Olympic medalists Daiya Seto and Masato Sakai to capture his first 200 butterfly title at nationals.

“I’ve been aiming at making the national team, so I’m glad that I can put on this national team jersey,” Horomura said. “I know I will be anxious and nervous but hopefully I can enjoy the competitions at Pan Pacific.”

It will be the sixth time for Japan to host the Pan Pacific Championships, which were first held in 1985, and the first time in 16 years (Yokohama was host in 2002).

As for the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games, Hagino racked up four gold medals and was awarded the MVP award at the 2014 edition in Incheon, South Korea. National team supervisor Norimasa Hirai said that he hopes to see a Japanese swimmer again win the accolade this summer.

With the Pan Pacific event being held in Tokyo, JSF officials also expect it to serve as a mock tournament for the country’s top swimmers toward the Tokyo Olympics.

“I remember that the crowd was so excited at the Pan Pacifics in 2002 in Yokohama,” Hirai said. “How high the expectations from the fans would be and how big their cheering would be, you can experience that in Tokyo and get ready mentally (for the Olympics).”

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