Business & Economy Science & Technology Education & Society Sports & Fashion Arts & Entertainment
Top Picks Back Numbers Search

Japan's Swimmers on a Roll

July 28, 2000
Tomoko Hagiwara makes her way to a new national record in the 200-meter women's individual medley. (Jiji)

The Japanese national swimming championships, held from April 18 to 23, 2000, served as the qualifying competition for Japan's Olympic swimming squad. Throughout the six-day event, some 23 national records were set in 16 men's and women's competitions, including one world record. Japan's swimmers--particularly the women--are on a roll.

Eight New Women's Records
The final day of the championships saw Mai Nakamura become the first Japanese in 28 years to set a new world record in the 50-meter backstroke. Nakamura clocked 28.67 seconds, beating the world record set by Nina Zhivanevskaya of Spain on April 8, 2000, by 0.02 seconds. "I was exhausted toward the end," said Nakamura, "but I'm happy I broke the record. That's what I set out to do."

The 50-meter backstroke is not an Olympic event, but Nakamura will be competing in the 100-meter backstroke, another event in which she set a national record at the championships. She finished this race at 1:00.78, only 0.62 seconds short of the world record, a feat that places her at sixth on the world all-time list.

Masami Tanaka, meanwhile, set national records in all seven breast-stroke races in which she competed: the 50-meter time trial and the 100- and 200-meter preliminaries, semifinals, and finals. Tanaka stunned spectators on the second day when she not only topped the national record for the 100-meter breast stroke but did so with the second-fastest time in the world. As though that were not enough, she then broke her own record in every event she competed in thereafter. Finishing the 200-meter final within 0.48 seconds of the world record was an added glory.

A World Seasonal Best
The championships also produced a new seasonal record holder. In the 200-meter women's individual medley, Tomoko Hagiwara swam the butterfly and backstroke at a world-record-breaking pace. She lost time while swimming the freestyle in the final stretch, but clocked in at 2:12.84, a national record and the fastest of the season worldwide. In 1999 not a single swimmer in this event finished before the 2:12 mark. And Hagiwara's time easily beats the winning time at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which was 2:13.93.

Hagiwara began taking swimming lessons in the second grade after nearly drowning in the ocean. Since June 1999, when she first set her sights on the Sydney Olympics, Hagiwara has trimmed her time by as much as three seconds. Now she aims for the world record and a gold medal. "Breaking the national record is only the first step," she says.

There were several men, too, who broke national records during the championships, but the number of record-setting women was exceptional, and many of their times ranked among the world's best. Japan's team is so outstanding that one of its swimmers says, "I feel less pressured about winning competitions abroad than winning the nationals."

As the days before the Sydney Olympics close in, expectations are on the rise for the new records and medals that will hopefully be reaped by Japan's swimmers.

Back to Main Index

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.