[Swimming] [34th Japan Para Swimming Championships ] Asian Records by Kimura, Nakajima and More
The Japan Championships for Swimming were held at the Chiba International General Swimming Center on November 18¬–19, where 4 Asian records and 22 Japan records were broken.
Kimura's new efforts show progress
The event was exceptionally energetic, with announcements of new records (including event records) at almost every race. Keiichi Kimura, S11 (visual impairment) swimmer with four Rio Paralympic silver and bronze medals, put on a true veteran's performance.
Kimura won the men's 100-meter butterfly with a time of 1:1.45, breaking his own Asian record by .16 seconds. He also won the men's 100-meter freestyle with a Japan record of 59.53.
Kimura has a smooth swimming style with a good grab on the water. On the second day (the day he broke the Asian record) he said he was still stiff from the first day. Nevertheless, he was generally in good condition: "I thought I could get a pretty good time, as long as I kept my body's stiffness under control."
He adopted a new strategy at this event called carbo-loading, which is what helped his good condition. "For two days before the event, I did not eat any protein. I ate only carbohydrates every two hours. This is something marathon runners do. I think it was also beneficial that I ate an energy jelly right before the (100-meter butterfly) race, just after my name was called in the waiting room."
He also increased the number of dolphin kicks after turns, from three times at the Rio Paralympics to four times until this summer, and six times at this event. This helped to improve his time. The more dolphin kicks you do, the harder it is on your energy, but he can pull it off because of his rigorous training. "This year I was able to rethink swimming from multiple angles, and it was also a year of realizing I can still get better. For Tokyo, my goal is to work on each issue at hand, one at a time." The event seems to have given him even more motivation.
Other Rio Paralympic Japanese representatives showed great performances as well. Takuro Yamada, bronze medalist of the Rio 50-meter freestyle, won the men's 100-meter butterfly (S9) with a new Japan record of 1:2.33. Takayuki Suzuki won the men's 50-meter freestyle (S5) at 38.20 and Airi Ike won the women's 50-meter freestyle (S10) at 29.36, both new Japan records. Ike also won the women's 100-meter freestyle with a new Japan record of 1:04.05.
Kota Kubota (S9) proudly represented the athletes with an athlete's oath
Mikuni Utsugi (SB8), a "Tokyo Generation" swimmer, won the women's 50-meter breaststroke with a new Asian record.
Overcoming the influence of the Mexican earthquake
The year's greatest goal for athletes was the World Championships to be held in Mexico City, but this was unexpectedly postponed due to the great earthquake in Mexico on September 19. The 12 Japanese representatives had entered the country ahead of time for a training camp to prepare for the high altitude, and they quickly returned to Japan one after another. Fortunately, all 12 athletes returned safely, but there was some concern for their emotional condition after losing the goal of proving their training and breaking records. These concerns proved unnecessary. Mei Ichinose (S9), who won the women's 50-meter butterfly with a Japan record of 32.98 and the women's 50-meter freestyle with an event record of 31.24, said, "It was, of course, unfortunate because we had been working towards the World Championships for a year. But, considering the situation in Mexico City, that decision was right. I decided to quickly shift my mindset instead of letting it get me down. The year after the Rio Paralympics went by so quickly, so I hope to consistently improve my performance each year until the Tokyo Paralympics."
This event highlighted the high awareness of the athletes. After all races were completed, Coach Fumiyo Minemura summarized the event and immediately named Keichi Nakajima (S14/intellectual disability) as the athlete that made the biggest impact. Nakajima won the men's 100-meter freestyle with a time of 54.17 and the men's 100-meter butterfly with a time of 58.65, both breaking the Asian record. Nakajima's time shows a possibility of reaching the world record. He smiled as he said, "I hope to make the Tokyo Paralympics exciting, because it will be held in our country. It might be too much to aim for a gold medal in Tokyo. But I am getting stronger."
Nakajima won bronze in the 200-meter individual medley at the Rio Paralympics, his first Paralympics at the age of 17. He is currently improving his performance towards the Tokyo Paralympics.
Next year we will see the Asian Para Games and Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships , in 2019 the World Championships, and in 2020 the Tokyo Paralympics. Coach Minemura narrowed her eyes as she said, "Everyone has different disabilities and different ways of training to leverage their uniqueness. Some of the athletes are seeing results through trial and error. The team's foundation is getting stronger."
text by Yumiko Yanai
photo by X-1