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Irie Just 0.08sec Shy Of Lochte's 200 Back WR

Apr 19, 2009  - Craig Lord

Ryosuke Irie was the latest Japanese swimmer at nationals in Shizuoka to knock on history's door: in setting an Asian record of 1:54.02, the 19-year-old became the second-fastest ever just 0.08sec off world-record pace and now sandwiched between the Olympic champions of 2008 and 2004 and a little over half a second ahead of one of only two swims left in the top 10 from the pre-February 2008 era, Michael Phelps's 1:54.65. The other belongs to 2000 Olympic champion, one of five Americans in the best 10, Lenny Krazelburg. 

In the 100m breaststroke, in the absence of Kosuke Kitajima, the second and third Japanese men to dip below the minute in the 100m breaststroke deliver the first sub-minute all-time top 10.

The meet ended with more than 20 new national marks. In these fast-suit fast-forward days, national records are not a good measure of how a nation is measuring up on the conveyor belt of world progress. This gives a better idea: eight men and five women registered new entries in the all-time top 10 across all solo world-championship events and where once there was relative weakness in terms of medal hopes in certain events, there is now strength, including the likes of a 1:57.24 by Ken Takakuwa, 24, fourth-fastest ever 200m medley man.

The 200m backstroke splits compared: 

  • Lochte: 27.24; 55.77; 1:25.06; 1:53.94
  • Irie: 27.08; 56.22; 1:25.34; 1:54.02

Irie's first and last laps faster, then, than Lochte's. On a 1:54.77 last year, Irie gave warning that he was moving in the right direction with a 1:54.74 best in January. His latest improvement sets him up as a title favourite at world championships in Rome in July. The new all-time top 10:

  • 1:53.94 Lochte USA
  • 1:54.02 Irie JPN
  • 1:54.32 Peirsol USA
  • 1:54.65 Phelps USA
  • 1:54.93 Vyatchanin RUS
  • 1:55.49 Rogan AUT
  • 1:55.82 Delaney AUS
  • 1:55.87 Krayzelburg USA
  • 1:56.15 Thoman USA

"I was very disappointed because I targeted to break the world record," Irie told local reporters. "I want to put this disappointment behind me at the world Championships in July. You cannot make it unless you try to do it from the very beginning. I felt so good at the 50m and 100m points. I'll do my best to live up to the expectations of the people." 

More than 20 national records fell during the four-day meet. Those included Takeshi Matsuda's 7:49.65 800m free. Improvement was hardly confined to those breaking national records: Ryo Tateishi and Yuta Suenaga, 24 this year, became the second and third Japanese swimmers to break the minute in the 100m breaststroke: Tateishi, 20 this year, clocked 59.80 for victory ahead of Suenaga's 59.90. 

Those efforts delivered the first all-time top 10 on 100m breaststroke of all sub-minute times, a list that includes three Japanese:

  • 58.91 Kitajima JPN
  • 59.13 Hansen USA - the only pre-February 2008 entry in the 10
  • 59.16 Dale Oen NOR
  • 59.37 Duboscq FRA
  • 59.65 Rickard AUS
  • 59.80 Tateishi JPN
  • 59.87 Sludnov RUS
  • 59.88 Cook GBR
  • 59.90 Suenaga JPN
  • 59.96 Van der Burgh RSA

Of the top 50 times ever over 100m breaststroke, 36 were clocked after February 2008 and the arrival of "fast" suits.  According to some, the impact of flotation devices has been limited on breaststroke. If so, would could have accounted for the seismic shift witnessed, one wonders. A shift the size of which that cannot be found in more than 25 years of world rankings compiled by Nick Thierry.  

"I finally made it," said Tateishi. "I felt heavy pressure (from Suenaga), but I never gave up till the end. It was not a better time than I had expected, but I'm just happy to win the title." The day before, he won the 50m title in 27.47, a national mark. Before nationals this is where the two men fit into Japan's picture, best time first, best in the previous year in the last column:

  • 58.91 Kitajima 59.74
  • 1:00.67 Suenaga 1:01.30
  • 1:00.72 Yamashita 1:01.74
  • 1:00.82 Matsueda 1:01.84
  • 1:01.18 Tateishi 1:01.83

Elsewhere on the last day, Makoto Ito won his fifth title in the men's 50m freestyle in 22.19, while Nanaka Tamura took her second title in the women's 100m breaststroke in 1:07.52. Aya Terakawa took the 200m backstroke in 2:09.27, Yui Miyamoto won the 100m butterfly in 58.81 and Misaki Yamaguchi won the 50m freestyle in 25.50, while Maiko Fujino defeated former champions Yumi Kida and Chika Yonenaga to win the 1,500m freestyle in 16:16.52.