Tokyo 2020 medal prospect Daiya Seto returned to competition Thursday at the Japan Open event for the first time since his disciplinary confinement was lifted at the end of last year.
Hitting the water at the brand-new Tokyo Aquatics Center, Seto made his comeback in a victorious fashion, finishing with a time of 4 minutes and 12.57 seconds in the men’s 400-meter individual medley final.
“I disappointed so many people associated with me because of my thoughtless actions last year,” Seto said after the race, referring to an extramarital affair that went public after being revealed by a tabloid report. “I deeply regret that.”
Swimming in his first competition in five months, Seto said that he was nervous, especially during his heat on Thursday morning. But he still proved that he is still an elite athlete in the discipline with the win.
Seto widened his gap between the seven other swimmers from early before allowing the eventual second-place finisher Yuki Ikari to cut the deficit in the latter half of the race, eventually managing to win by 0.34 seconds.
The 26-year-old swam nearly four seconds faster than his long-time rival Kosuke Hagino, who ended sixth.
Seto identified his loss of momentum toward the end of the race as something he would need to work on going forward. He stated that he resumed training in earnest last month and would need to work on regaining muscles capable of hold up throughout the race.
“During the disciplinary period, I weighed in 81 kg and then I genuinely resumed my training last month,” Seto said. “So for about one month, while I did not reduce the volume of my meals, I tried to drop my fat. Now I weigh in about 76 or 77. It was about 75, 76 earlier last month. But I would like to gain muscles that can endure and resist lactic acid.”
Seto was given an ethics code violation by the Japan Swimming Association in October and was banned from competition and official training through 2020. He was forced to step down as the captain of the national team as well.
Seto’s affair, in which he had been seeing a woman who is not his wife, drew criticism from the public and cost the swimmer his sponsorship with All Nippon Airways.
The four-time world championship gold medalist said that he had practiced at several private locations during his suspension, including a high school pool in Saitama Prefecture.
“Condition-wise, because this is my first competition in a while, I’ve not been perfectly tuned up,” Seto said. “But this is a new start and I wanted to do as best as I can today. I’m not satisfied with my time of 4:12 but I want to whip myself to work harder every single day.”
Obviously, the scandal was the biggest crisis of his career and some even claimed he should be removed from the Olympic squad.
But winning an Olympic gold has been his childhood dream and he said that target remains unshaken.
“I haven’t accomplished a gold medal at the Olympics,” said Seto, who won bronze in the 400 IM at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “And I want to repay those who I indebted, and swimming is the only way that I can express myself. So retirement didn’t cross my mind at all.”
Seto has two more races to complete — Saturday’s 200 individual medley and 200 butterfly — in the four-day event.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.