Seto Daiya books third Tokyo spot despite shock loss to Honda Tomoru in 200m butterfly at Japanese Olympic trials

Gold-medal favourite for Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 falls but still qualifies for his third event; IM queen Ohashi Yui also concedes to Teramura Miho despite making team in 200.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

It’s not often that Seto Daiya loses to a Japanese swimmer not named Hagino Kosuke.

Tuesday (6 April) was one of those days.

Seto collapsed over the last few strokes in the 200-metre butterfly final at the Japanese Olympic trials for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, allowing the up-and-coming Honda Tomoru to steal his thunder.

The 2019 world silver medallist, Seto still qualified for the upcoming Olympics with a time of 1 minute, 55.20 seconds but was overtaken by Honda in the last 10m.

Honda won in 1:54.88 and will head to his first Olympic Games later this year.

The 200 fly will be Seto’s third event at Tokyo 2020. He had already qualified for the two IMs after winning both in Gwangju, South Korea, two years ago.

"Lucky I qualified" - Seto

Seto was visibly upset with himself after falling almost three seconds short of his national record.

“I’m lucky I qualified”, Seto said, referring to the qualifying time of 1:56.25.

“Not nerves. I was just too slow. I’ll try to take this as a learning experience.

“I need to work harder from hereon as it’s obvious I don’t have the basic fitness I need”.

The 19-year-old Honda, on the other hand, was over the moon having stung an Olympic gold-medal favourite.

“I’m really, really happy”, Honda said. “Just thrilled to have qualified.

“My strength is in the last 50. I was aiming for a 1:53 so I’m a little disappointed by that but this is something I can build on.

“The Olympics is the dream stage for an athlete. I would love nothing more if I could shock the world on that stage”.

Ohashi stunned, too

At the halfway point of the meet at Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Seto wasn’t the only one who was upset.

Ohashi Yui, a two-time podium finisher at the world championships, went down to Teramura Miho in the women’s 200 IM.

In a close contest that saw the top three finishers separated by three-tenths of a second, Ohashi (2:09.67) lost by a touch to Teramura (2:09.55).

Both qualified for the Games. Omoto Rika (2:09.85) came in third and missed out.

Teramura, who made the Rio 2016 team but went out in the semi-finals there, said she had been working harder than ever since the Games postponement to 2021 and was happy to see the effort pay off.

“Ever since Rio, this is what I’ve been working towards all long”, she said.

“It was a struggle at times for me after Rio. I thought I might not have what it takes to be an athlete.

“I’m really happy about the win but I think I could have been even faster.

“The training up to this point went really well and I went into the race with a lot of confidence”.

The Japanese Olympic trials doubles as the national championships.

The top two in each race who meet the respective qualifying times win a place on the Tokyo 2020 team.