Daiya Seto, one of Japan’s elite swimmers of the 21st century, was recently recognized for his top accomplishments this year.
Swimming World magazine this month named the 25-year-old Seto its Male Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year.
The magazine’s annual awards also include male and female World, American, European and African Swimmers of the Year.
At the 2019 FINA World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Seto won the men’s 400-meter individual medley for the third time after triumphs in 2013 and 2015.
In July’s victory, he led for the entire race en route to a winning time of 4 minutes, 8.95 seconds. (He placed third at the 2017 worlds.)
As a result, Seto became the first male swimmer to win the race three times at worlds.
Swimming World’s John Lohn described in vivid detail what it took for Seto to finish on top.
“With (Chase) Kalisz off form and stunningly locked out of the final after a 10th-place finish in the preliminaries, Seto was seemingly racing the clock in his final event of a draining week,” Lohn wrote. “Ultimately, Seto narrowly got the job done, his winning time of 4:08.95 just enough to fend off a frantic challenge by American Jay Litherland (4:09.22) down the final length of freestyle.”
Seto conceded that he was “lucky to win gold,” noted Swimming World, which pointed out that Seto led by more than 3 seconds at the 300-meter mark.
But that didn’t guarantee a victory.
Or as Seto put it: “I saw (Litherland). I tried to build up such a big lead that I could overcome any challenge. But not swimming well at the end (the freestyle leg) is an area of improvement for next year.”
Early in the premier showcase of the sport in a non-Olympic year, the Saitama Prefecture native took second in the 200-meter butterfly (1:53.86, setting a personal-best time). A day later — Day 5, to be precise — he captured gold in the men’s 200 IM, with another personal-record time, 1:56.14. By doing so, he dethroned reigning world champ Kalisz.
“I had a good meet,” Seto was quoted as saying by Swimming World in South Korea, “but I want to be the Olympic champion next year.”
In his Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Seto finished third in the 400 IM and fifth in the 200 butterfly.
Indeed, he has higher aspirations for the 2020 Games.
In Swimming World’s October cover story, “Daiya Seto: It’s Time For Some Respect,” Lohn underscored the point that Seto is one of the world’s unheralded swimming stars.
“His versatility is among the finest on the planet, not surprising given his status as the current Man to Beat in the individual medley disciplines,” Lohn wrote. “Beyond what he does in the medley events, he’s one of the best in the world in the butterfly and displays first-class talent in the breaststroke. Simply put, guys like him are not often found.
“So, how is it that Daiya Seto, a star by all measures, can be considered underappreciated while at the peak of his career? It is not to suggest Seto, a 25-year-old from Japan, is ignored when it comes to his achievements in the sport. It’s just that someone with his rich portfolio typically is celebrated on a grander scale.
“As the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo quickly approach, Seto will have the opportunity to shine in his homeland. More, if he manages to succeed at the level he is capable, gone will be the days in which Seto does not receive his proper due.”