Michael Phelps, Kosuke Hagino

Kosuke Hagino: I’m trying to become like Michael Phelps

Leave a comment

Michael Phelps was the world’s greatest swimmer for much of this century. Ryan Lochte, too, has held that crown. There is little doubt that the title now belongs to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino.

And Hagino, who just turned 20 and is short of 6 feet, has his sights set pretty high.

“Michael Phelps is my role model, and I’m trying to become like him,” Hagino told Agence France-Presse after winning the 200m freestyle at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Sunday. “I want to catch up with Phelps someday. But I have to put up the results, and this is a big step. First I will try to win as many medals as I can at these Games.”

Hagino backed it up, winning the 200m individual medley and leading Japan to 4x200m freestyle gold on Monday, giving him three gold medals in two days against the top swimmers from China, Japan and South Korea, among other Asian nations.

In the 200m free, Hagino beat the reigning Swimming World Swimmer of the Year, China’s Sun Yang, and South Korea’s biggest star, Park Tae-hwan, who won 2008 and 2012 Olympic silver in the event.

Hagino won silver in the 200m free at the Pan Pacific Championships in August, over the likes of Lochte. He swam .85 faster at the Asian Games than at Pan Pacs for the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Hagino’s winning time in the 200m IM, a better event for him, was the fastest in the world this year by .68. Remember, Hagino beat Phelps in the 200m IM at Pan Pacs by .02.

“My purpose was to do my best, however I believe Michael Phelps is not in the best condition right now,” Hagino said after beating the on-a-comeback Phelps that night, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin in Australia.

Phelps is nine years older than Hagino, who seems to be getting faster and faster. Hagino keeps bettering his personal best in the 200m IM, but he is still more than one second off Lochte’s world record.

“The gap [with Lochte] is slowly closing,” Hagino told the Japan News before the Asian Games.

Hagino’s split in the 4x200m free relay on Monday was 1:44.97. That’s .6 faster than anybody’s split from the same race at Pan Pacs, including Lochte and Phelps.

Hagino is also the reigning World champion in the 400m IM, with the fastest time in the world this year by more than one second.

He is the world’s greatest swimmer in the 200m free, 200m IM and 400m IM, three of the five individual events Phelps won at the Beijing Olympics.

He also won bronze in Incheon in the 100m backstroke and silver at 2013 Worlds in the 400m free.

Perhaps the most anticipated race of Hagino’s season may come Tuesday. He is entered in the 400m free with Sun, the reigning World and Olympic champion in the event, as well as Park, the 2008 Olympic champion. However, Sun has come down with an injury that forced him out of the 4x200m free relay Monday.

“I have three [individual] events left, and I want to win them all,” Hagino said Monday, according to Agence France-Presse, “I want to leave everything out there.”

Hagino, who shares a first name with Japan’s greatest swimmer ever, breaststroke legend Kosuke Kitajima, faces a problem if he wants to pull off a Phelps-like schedule at the Olympics.

The 400m IM and 400m free are typically on the same day at the Games, the opening day. At Pan Pacs, he won silver in the 400m free and then finished last in the 200m backstroke final on the same night. Still, Hagino swam six individual events at the 2013 World Championships with these results — two silvers, three fifths, one seventh.

Hagino began swimming before he turned 1 but “could only do one or two push-ups as a sixth grader.” according to the Japan News. “He also failed to excel at sports involving a ball.”

In 2012, Hagino won bronze in the 400m IM in London, relegating Phelps to fourth place. That was the first time Phelps finished off the podium at an Olympics since 2000.

“It’s been fun being able to watch him,” Phelps told The New York Times at Pan Pacs. “He’s definitely a very well-rounded swimmer.”

Video: Scary crash at World Road Cycling Championships

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
Getty Images
Leave a comment

April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!