Hagino outduels Seto in 200 IM; Ikee earns third title at nationals


Round 2 of the Kosuke Hagino-Daiya Seto duel went to the Olympic champ this time, with Hagino comfortably winning the men’s 200-meter individual medley for the sixth straight time at the national swimming championships Saturday.

Less than an hour after capturing the 400 freestyle title in 3 minutes, 47.30 seconds, Hagino led from start to finish in the 200 IM to touch the wall in 1:56.01 for his third victory here.

Hagino, the reigning Olympic 400 IM champ, on Thursday lost to two-time world champion Seto by one-hundredth of a second in that event. With their times Saturday, both Hagino and Seto qualified in the 200 IM for the world championships in July in Budapest.

The nationals double as a qualifying meet for the world championships.

“I’m utterly exhausted,” said Hagino, whose time in the 200 IM was almost a second short of his Japan record. His time in the 400 free was close to four seconds off his personal best, also the national record.

“I haven’t set a time for myself at all during this meet, and the coach (Norimasa Hirai) hasn’t said a word to me about it either. He said something has to give when I’m in the shape I’m in.

“The important thing is to highlight the positives and build on them.”

Hagino, who won silver in the 200 IM in Rio, will look to wrap up the four-day championships on Sunday with a win in the 200 backstroke. The nationals is Hagino’s second competition since having post-Rio right elbow surgery.

“I went all out on the first day so I thought I might go downhill from there, but I’ve managed to hang in there,” Hagino said. “This has been good training for me. I’m building on one day from the next.

“I just hope I get up in the morning and feel OK. Right now, I’m literally giving it everything I’ve got in each race and letting the results take care of themselves.”

Seto was also second in the 200 fly to Masato Sakai. The Rio Olympic runner-up to Michael Phelps clocked 1:53.71. Sakai and Seto both met the qualifying standard for the worlds.

“I went too fast early on and I felt it down the last 50. I was shooting for the Japan record so it’s a little disappointing, but I’ll take the win,” Sakai said, referring to Takeshi Matsuda’s mark of 1:52.97.

Rikako Ikee won her third title of the meet, cruising to victory in the women’s 100 freestyle.

The 16-year-old touched the wall in 53.83 seconds, falling 0.15 off her Japan record. She hopes to make it 5-for-5 on Sunday, when she is entered in the 50 free and 100 butterfly on the meet’s final day.

“It’s too bad I missed the record, but I won this race for the first time so that’s good,” Ikee said. “I hope to get stronger by the summer. If I can get physically stronger, I should be able to compete at the world level.

“Tomorrow will be the toughest day, but I want to win all five of my races now.”

Yui Ohashi, who shattered the national record in the women’s 400 IM on Friday, qualified for her second race in Budapest by roaring from behind to win the 200 IM over Runa Imai in 2:09.96. Imai (2:11.51) also made the worlds team.

“I’m still having a hard time believing my record yesterday,” said Ohashi, who sliced more than three seconds off the old 400 IM record. “I tried to put it behind me and focus on the 200, and I think I was able to do that.

“Coach (Hirai) told me the race would come down to the free and that’s how it unfolded.”

A pair of 17-year-olds, Suzuka Hasegawa and Hiroko Makino, finished one-two in the women’s 200 fly to book their places in Budapest.

Former world champion Junya Koga topped the men’s 50 backstroke in (24.67), but failed to make the cut for the worlds.

Yukimi Moriyama won the women’s 800 free (8:32.10), while Emi Moronuki was victorious in the 50 backstroke (27.98).

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