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Kalisz outlasts Hagino, Seto in 400 IM on Pan Pacs opening day

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Chase Kalisz proved he’s currently the best individual medley swimmer in the world with a crushing victory over the Japanese star duo.

The American geared up after the 250-meter turn to take a lead and only widened the gap on former world champions Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto the rest of the way in the 400-meter IM final on the first day of the Pan Pacific Championships on Thursday.

Defending world champion Kalisz claimed the gold medal with a time of 4 minutes, 7.95 seconds at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

Hagino finished runner-up, more than three seconds after Kalisz touched the wall in 4:11.13, while Seto was third in 4:12.60.

Seto and Hagino were 1-2 for the first 200 to 250 meters, but Kalisz seized control in the breaststroke and freestyle portions of the race to earn an impressive win.

Kalisz said after the race that he was not focused too much on having a good time, and it was important to hit the water in an international meet in the city that he could return to in two years for the Olympics.

“So I think it’s good preparation,” he said.

Hagino, who took gold in the same discipline at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, admitted that it was a complete loss to Kalisz, but he still enjoyed competing in front of the home fans with the 2020 Summer Games in sight.

“I felt pretty good in the heat. I felt that way for the first time in a while. So I was very excited,” Hagino said. “In the final, my time wasn’t so good. But the way I performed and all that, I can take it positively. So it was a big day for me.”

Kalisz showcased who he is before the home crowd, which rooted fervently for Hagino and Seto. But the 24-year-old said that it wasn’t so significant to beat his rivals in a specific country.

“Those are great competitors,” Kalisz said of Hagino and Seto. “And it’s a very respectful rivalry that I have with them.”

In other medal events, teenage phenom Rikako Ikee stunned observers at the arena, outswimming superstar Katie Ledecky by setting a national record of 1:54.85 in the women’s 200 freestyle. Ikee earned the silver medal, finishing behind Canada’s Taylor Ruck, who established a meet record (1:54.44).

Ikee was slightly behind Ledecky until the 150-meter turn yet got past the American in the final 50. Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky, who had competed in the 800 freestyle final about 45 minutes before the race, wound up with the bronze medal, completing the race in 1:55.15.

“I’m really excited, because I didn’t expect I’d come up with a result like this,” the 18-year-old Ikee said.

Asked how she felt to finish ahead of Ledeky, Ikee said: “I’m so excited about it, too, but I need to keep working hard.”

Ledecky said: “Taylor and Rikako had tremendous swims and it was a lot of fun to race with some of the world’s best right there.”

Yui Ohashi also overpowered other swimmers to nab gold in the women’s 400 IM. The reigning silver medalist at worlds finished the race in 4:33.77, placing ahead of American runner-up Melanie Margalis. Ohashi’s compatriot Sakiko Shimizu earned bronze.

In the men’s 100 breaststroke, veteran Yasuhiro Koseki provided the first gold medal to the Tobiuo Japan, clocking 59.08 seconds and edging Australia’s Jake Packard by 0.12 seconds.

In the women’s 100 breaststroke, world record holder Lilly King of the U.S. cruised to victory in 1:05.44. Reona Aoki secured a podium finish, earning the bronze medal with a 1:06.34 mark.

Katsuhiro Matsumoto obtained the bronze in the men’s 200 freestyle (1:45.92). American Townley Haas won the race in 1:45.56.

Also, there was a 400-meter mixed-medley relay competition for the first time at a major international meet and Australia (Mitchell Parkin, Packard, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell) won gold in 3:38.91. Japan (Ryosuke Irie, Koseki, Ikee and Tomomi Aoki) took silver in 3:40.98, while the United States finished third in 3:41.74. The newly introduced race will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.