The news of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic rendered the host nation's standout swimmer a shell of himself.
After winning both the men's 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys at the world championships last summer, 25-year-old Daiya Seto had the world at his feet.
With additional IM wins in the 2013 and 2015 400, Seto boasts four gold medals from the worlds. Although his maiden Olympic Games in 2016 ended with a single bronze medal, he was ready to make up for that performance in his backyard.
During his preparations, Seto added interval training to his program despite previously avoiding the high-intensity workouts. His national record in the 200 butterfly, set in January, and the new personal bests he managed in the two IMs all indicated he was set for a successful summer.
"It will be the peak of my competitive career. I want to make a mark that will stand for the rest of my life," Seto had stated, while also hinting at the possibility of a post-Tokyo retirement.
Then came the unprecedented turn of events that shook the Olympic world.
"I don't want people saying I couldn't win the gold medal because it wasn't held in 2020," Seto told close acquaintances in late March following the postponement.
It took more than two weeks for him to release a comment via his Twitter account.
"I'm still living through the struggle of not being able to move on completely," he wrote on April 10. "The Olympics, for me, is the dream stage, one that nothing can replace. (But) it is also the Olympics that are giving me the opportunity to go through the emotions and experiences that I'm going through now."
With the national championships in early April canceled, Seto hasn't swum at all since the end of March. But he runs and rides bikes to keep his fitness levels up — and keep the competitive fire in his belly burning.
"Whether it's next year, a year after or whenever, I'll build that strong desire to win the gold medal with a brand new start."
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