Daiya Seto was looking for nothing but the gold medal when he entered the water.
Seto successfully did so with a gutsy performance before the home crowd at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center on Friday night.
The 24-year-old passed Leonardo de Deus of Brazil in the final 50 meters to triumph in the men’s 200-meter butterfly final with a time of 1 minute, 54.34 seconds at the Pan Pacific Championships.
De Deus, who earned silver at the previous Pan Pacs in Gold Coast, Australia, four years ago, was saddled with the same medal in 1:54.89. American Zachary Harting was third in 1:55.05.
Yuya Yajima was third at the 150 and wound up placing sixth in 1:56.33.
“I looked around and thought I was supposed to be better than anyone else today,” Seto said, looking back on the competition.
Seto, who won bronze in the 400 individual medley on Thursday, actually admitted that he felt fortunate to win. He said, “I hadn’t practiced the 200 butterfly at all, so I kind of feel lucky to have won.”
In the men’s 100 backstroke, world record holder Ryan Murphy of the United States had a convincing victory over Ryosuke Irie and compatriot Matthew Grevers. The reigning double backstroke gold medalist touched the wall at the 50 (0.02 seconds faster than his own world record), but felt short of breaking it in the end. Murphy earned the gold with a meet-record time of 51.94.
Veteran Irie, who struck gold in the discipline at the last Pan Pacs, overtook Grevers in the final 50 to secure the silver medal in 52.78.
“I’m happy to finish second but it’s evident that there was a gap to first place,” the 28-year-old said.
Irie, who moved his training base to the United States to join Team Elite after the 2016 Rio Games, said that Murphy is currently dominant and has been an inspiration.
“I feel like I’ve been making small steps forward. I feel like I’m evolving,” Irie said of his improvement after moving to the United States (Team Elite now trains in San Diego). “But some of the top guys like Ryan are going way ahead of myself. So the 100 competition was what made me think I should not be satisfied.”
Murphy said: “Ryosuke’s awesome. It’s been great having him, training in the U.S. I’ve learned so much from him in terms of his technique. His technique is awesome.”
Murphy revealed with a smile that he asked Irie some restaurant recommendations at the medal ceremony because he would stay in Japan for a few days.
“So we’ve had that kind of right relationship and I think it’s awesome,” Murphy added.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Cate Campbell defended her women’s 100 freestyle title at the Pan Pacs as she broke her own meet record (52.03), ahead of American Simone Manuel, who was the runner-up in 52.66. Rikako Ikee, who earned silver in the 200 free on the previous night, placed fifth.
In the men’s 100 free, Kyle Chalmers, also of Australia, exhibited a strong spurt after the turn to win with a 48.00 mark. Chalmers’ fellow Aussie Jack Cartwright and the U.S.’s Caeleb Dressel tied for the silver in 48.22. Katsumi Nakamura and Shinri Shioura were sixth (48.49) and eighth (48.68), respectively.
In the women’s 200 butterfly, 19-year-old national champion Sachi Mochida showcased a strong performance while getting a big boost from the fans in the final 50 to capture the silver medal with a 2:07.66 mark. Hali Flickinger of the U.S. won in 2:07.35. American Katherine Drabot was third.
Mochida was trailing Drabot, who was in third place, after 150 meters, but managed to pass Drabot over the final portion of the race.
“I did hear the cheers (of the fans) and it made it possible for me to give everything toward the end,” said Mochida, who was left off the national team for the 2017 world championships.
Mochida added: “I knew the two Americans (Flickinger and Drabot) were very competitive, but I wanted to outswim at least one of them and I’m happy I did.”
In the women’s 100 backstroke, Canada’s Kylie Masse edged Emily Seebohm of Australia, completing the race in 58.61 seconds. Natsumi Sakai was sixth (59.33).
In the women’s 4×200 free relay, Australia came out on top, narrowly beating the U.S. in 7:44.12 and establishing a meet record. Japan finished last in the four-team race but set a national record (7:48.96).
In the men’s 4×200 free relay, this time the U.S. edged the Aussies by 0.34 seconds with a 7:04.36 mark. Japan secured the bronze medal in 7:08.07.
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