The Yomiuri ShimbunNAGOYA — It’s certainly OK to call Yui Ohashi a “Cinderella Swimmer” after the second day of action at Japan Championships.
The 21-year-old took the top spot in the women’s 400-meter individual medley on Friday night at Nippon Gaishi Arena in Nagoya by smashing the Japan record with a 4-minute 31.42-second finish, a time that would have been good enough to earn her the bronze medal in the event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
On the men’s side, Kosuke Hagino won his fifth consecutive national title in the 200 freestyle, touching in 1:47.29.
In addition, Ryosuke Irie sealed his fourth national title in as many years in the 100 backstroke with a 53.46 finish.
There were two Japan records in the 50 breaststroke races, Yasuhiro Koseki winning on the men’s side in 27.23, while Satomi Suzuki took the women’s event in 30.66.
Ohashi was excited after the record-setting performance.
“I’m filled with feelings of happiness and surprise,” she said.
The race was competitive, but Ohashi didn’t worry that next to her was the national record-holder in the event, Sakiko Shimizu, who was eighth at the Rio Games. Ohashi took advantage of her 1.73-meter frame, pushing the pace with her dynamic strokes.
“I just wanted to go all out,” said Ohashi, whose effort earned her a spot on Japan’s team to the world championships, to be held in July in Budapest.
Her time, which was way ahead of national record pace, flashed inside the arena with every turn at the wall. Amid the boisterous cheers from the crowd, she overcame her weakness of second-half struggles and topped the previous record by 3.24 seconds.
Meanwhile for Irie, the thought of being left off the national team was in his head as he won the 100 backstroke, looking more like the strong-willed top-level swimmer he had been in the past.
“I was able to make people remember the old me with my swimming,” Irie said. He was in second place at the midway point in the race, but did what he does best, going to his exquisite form to make up the difference and come through in the end.
Hagino, in his first competition as a professional swimmer, struggled to win the 200 freestyle. It was his first win in his second event at the meet.
Hagino was in fifth at the 150-meter point and had to pass four other swimmers to win it, but was more than two seconds behind the Japan record he holds.