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Olympics

SWIMMING | Yui Ohashi Completes Double Individual Medley Gold-Medal Haul with Victory in 200-Meter Final

Shiga Prefecture’s aquatic sensation won the down-to-the-wire race, while Tomoru Honda claimed the silver medal in the men’s 200-meter butterfly.

Ed Odeven

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Yui Ohashi celebrates after winning the women's 200-meter individual medley final at the Tokyo Olympics on July 28. (Matthias Schrader/AP)


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Yui Ohashi became the first Japanese Olympian to win two gold medals at the ongoing Tokyo Games.

Ohashi captured her second gold in four days at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, finishing first in a thrilling women’s 200-meter individual medley final on Wednesday, July 28.

Over the final several meters of the race, Ohashi was swimming 1.53 meters per second (mps), a speed matched by Alex Walsh of the United States. American Kate Douglass was matching that speed, but slipped to 1.52 mps before touching the wall.

Ohashi maintained her poise and stamina and touched the wall in 2 minutes, 8.52 seconds to claim the gold.

Walsh finished second in 2:08.65 and Douglass placed third in 2:09.04.

The 25-year-old explained that she had a go-for-broke mentality in the race.

I knew it would be a tight race so, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about a gold medal, but I made it somehow,” Ohashi was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

“I swam the last part of the race thinking win or lose, I want to be able to say I have no regrets.”

Ohashi, who hails from Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, captured the gold in the 400 IM on Sunday, July 25.

Two years ago, Ohashi finished eighth in the 200 IM and third in the 400 IM at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. She was second and fourth, respectively, in the same races at the 2017 world championships in Budapest.

Ohashi demonstrated again her proficiency in all four of swimming’s recognized strokes. Gliding through the water in fifth place at the 50-meter mark in the opening butterfly portion of the race in 27.99 seconds, Ohashi moved into second in the backstroke portion and stayed there in medal contention the rest of the race.

She made the turn in second place at the 150-meter mark as the breaststroke phase of the race turned into the freestyle leg.

At that point, Walsh had a slight lead, but Ohashi found an extra gear and overtook the American by a razor-thin margin down the stretch.

Training for the Olympics on a year-round basis, Ohashi expressed gratitude for those who’ve supported her to reach this point, the pinnacle of her swimming career.

“I caused many people a lot of trouble to get this far but I hope I was able to repay them a little bit by this win,” told reporters.

Honda Finishes Strong in Men’s 200 Butterfly

Yokohama native Tomoru Honda, a 19-year-old Nihon University student, earned his first Olympic medal with a runner-up finish in the men’s 200-meter butterfly final.

Honda finished the race in 1:53.73.

Hungary’s Kristof Milak shattered Michael Phelps’ Olympic record (1:52.03), which was set at the 2008 Beijing Games, capturing the gold in a blistering 1:51.25. Italy’s Federico Burdisso finished third (1:54.45).

Milak, who set the world record (1:50.73) and won the title at the 2019 world champions, coped with a wardrobe malfunction moments before the final, but once it started he had no other distractions.

“My suit tore 10 minutes before the start of the race, just before entering the call room,” Milak recounted after the race according to the Swimming World magazine website. “At that moment I knew that the world record was gone, because I was totally off focus.

“When that happens to a swimmer, it could be the goggles, or suit, but just prior to a race, it can destroy your focus, absolutely. I got tense. It was on my face and it was no longer that easy to do what I wanted to do.”

Honda was a study in perseverance. In fourth place at each of the first three turns in the 50-meter pool, he moved from fourth into second place on the final lap and hit the wall with a profound sense of accomplishment.

“I swam my ideal race and won a silver medal on top of that, so I’m really happy,” Honda was quoted as saying by Kyodo News after the race. “I think I was calm in the first half [of the race] and all I needed to do was have a strong second half, and I feel that I raced really well.”

What was his mindset before the final?

“I was nervous but I told myself I would have more fun than anyone else, so I soaked it all in from when I entered the arena,” Honda revealed later.

With his runner-up finish, Honda kept alive Japan’s impressive medal streak in the race.

Takashi Yamamoto nabbed the silver at the 2004 Athens Games, followed by Takeshi Matsuda’s consecutive bronze-medal efforts in 2008 at 2012. Masato Sakai earned the silver at the 2016 Rio Games.

In another final in the day’s morning pool session, American Katie Ledecky won the inaugural women’s 1,500 freestyle in 15:37.34, followed by U.S. teammate Erica Sullivan (15:41.41) and Germany’s Sarah Kohler (15:42.91).

Great Britain grabbed the gold in the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay, obliterating the field in 6:58.58, followed by Russia (7:01.81) and Australia (7:01.84).

In the women’s 200-meter final, Australia’s Ariarne Titmus triumphed in an Olympic-record time of 1:53.50. Five-time Olympian Federica Pellegrini of Italy, the world-record holder (1:52.98), finished seventh in 1:55.91.

Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.