Japanese Olympic hope Rikako Ikee topped the time-sheets in the women’s 100 metres freestyle and 50m butterfly heats at the Asian Games on Monday, but was still far from happy.
The graceful 18-year-old, who lit up the recent Pan Pacific swimming championships in Tokyo, is expected to be a serious force in the 100m fly and 100m free at the 2020 Olympics in her home city.
But Japan’s new queen of the pool screwed her nose up at her times in Monday’s morning heats in Jakarta.
Ikee clocked 25.91 seconds in the 50m fly, the morning after helping Japan capture gold in the women’s 4x100m freestyle.
She returned less than half-an-hour later to qualify fastest for the 100m free in 54.33.
“I was pretty stiff in the 50 fly,” grimaced Ikee. “I wanted a Games record but I was a bit tired after last night — a relay final first up, no heats beforehand so I had to be up for it.
“The 100m (free) was better so hopefully I can set a Games record tonight.”
Her closest challenger in the 100m free — swimming’s blue riband race — was China’s Zhu Menghui, who went 54.67 with Japan’s Tomomi Aoki clocking 55.57.
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino was quickest in the men’s 200m individual medley heats as the defending champ posted a time of 1:59.76, with Chinese pair Qin Haiyang and Wang Shun in close pursuit.
“The starter was a bit urgent with his ‘ready, set, go’ so I didn’t get a good start,” said Hagino, who captured 400 IM gold at the Rio Olympics two years ago and took silver behind Michael Phelps in the 200m.
“It felt good though and will give me confidence for the final.”
– ‘No booze’ –
Japan team-mate Daiya Seto was disgusted after qualifying fourth fastest in 2:01.57.
“Gosh that was so slow,” he said with a sheepish grin. “It even shocked me how slow it was.”
China’s Xu Jiayu emerged the morning after marking his 23rd birthday with victory in the men’s 100m backstroke to lay down a marker for the one-lap race.
The world champion clocked 25.12 with Japan’s Ryosuke Irie going 25.25.
“I celebrated last night with a piece of cake,” smiled Xu. “But no booze. I get nervous before races, but that’s a good thing for me and I’m confident I have a chance of the backstroke treble.”
China topped the medals on day one, winning four gold medals to Japan’s three, led by their talismanic multiple Olympic champion Sun Yang in the 200m freestyle.
Sun goes in the men’s 800m free and the men’s 4x200m free relay on Monday evening.
One person who won’t be troubling the Chinese giant is pint-sized Maldives swimmer Ibrahim Mubal, who swam two-and-a-half laps all alone to clock a heat time of 10:12.07 in his first-ever 800m swim.
“That was hard work,” he gasped. “I think I’ll stick to the 200 and 400 in future.”