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Fine Form From Irie, Hagino & Matsuda

Mar 17, 2013  - Craig Lord

Olympic medallists Ryosuke Irie, Kosuke Hagino and Takeshi Matsuda helped Japan conclude a strong show on the last day at the NSW state titles in Sydney. 

Irie and Hagino raced to the helm of the first-quarter 2013 world rankings ahead of Jeremy Stravius (FRA), on 53.70 at Amiens on Saturday night, and the season best, 53.75, of Olympic champion Matt Grevers (USA) in the 100m backstroke. Irie turned 0.1sec ahead of his teammate at 50m, on 27.24, on his way to a 53.43 to 53.58 win. Hagino's previous lifetime best was a 54.83 back in May 2011.

SOPAC's Daniel Arnamart was the best among Australians, on 54.52, with Ashley Delaney on 54.59 and Ben Treffers on 54.79.

With Olympic bronze medallist Hagino bypassing the 400m medley, Travis Mahoney took the final in  4:24.42 after Daniel Tranter had clocked 4:24.11 in heats.

Olympic medallist Takeshi Matsudsa continued to be among those at the crest of a wave of strong Japanese  performances. In 52.76 (24.83) in the 100m butterfly, the 28-year-old kept at bay world cup winner Kenneth To (AUS), 53.29, and Japan teammate Yuta Kimura and Tommaso D'Orsogna (AUS), both on 53.85, with two others, Keita Sunama and Sam McConnell (AUS) within 0.1sec. 

Matsuda's time is nestles in between the top two efforts, both by Australians, in the world in the first quarter of the year: 52.69 by Christ Wright and 52.77 by Justin Hadler at the Super Series in January. The Aussie All-comers record is held by Michael Phelps (USA) in 50.77, the time that won him gold at the World Championships in Melbourne that year. 

Other Japanese winners were Akihiro Yamaguchi (JPN), world 200m breaststroke record holder (2:07.01 last september), who dominated his best event in 2:12.23; Aya Terakawa, on 27.89 in the backstroke dash ahead of Emily Seebohm, 28.40, and Alicia Coutts, 28.51 and practising speed across the whole medley range at the meet. The five-times medal winner at London 2012 bumped the breaststroke crew aside with a 32.01 in the dash ahead of Sally Foster, 32.19, and Sam Marshall, 32.28. 

Coutts finished her state titles test off with a sixth win, on 2:11.13 in the 200m medley. Australians are preparing for their final approach to nationals and world-title trials next month.

Bronte Barratt, St Peters Western, shuffled up to second on the first-quarter world rankings with a 1:57.51 effort in the 200m freestyle ahead of Japan's Haruka Ueda, on 1:59.07, with Kylie Palmer and Emma McKeon on 1:59.56 and 1:59.97. The helm of the early world ranks is owned by Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), in 1:56.70, clocked at the Swedish GP earlier this month. Barrat's time today is 0.04sec faster than Olympic champion Camille Muffat's opening gambit at her home GP meet in Nice, France, while Missy Franklin (USA) has a 1:57.69 to her credit so far this season.

Ellen Gandy, Nunawading and in the process of switching allegiance from Britain to Australia, took the 200m butterfly in 2:11.01 ahead of Samantha Hamill, 2:12.37, and Madeline Groves, 2:12.49.

The men's 50m free saw Andrew Abood clock 22.38 to keep his brother Matt and James Magnussen at bay, joint silver won in 22.56.

The last women's relay of the meet, 4x100m free, saw Japan win comfortably in 3:42.66, Haruka Ueda on 55.00, Miki Uchida on 55.75, Yasuko Miyamoto on 56.26, and Yuka Kato on 55.65. Aussie pride was restored in the last race and relay of the meet: SOPAC men's A team clocked 1 3:18.87 to win the 4x100m free ahead of Japan, on 3:21.21. James Magnussen set the ball rolling in 48.55, with Seph Carty on 51.13, Daniel Tranter on 49.90, and Daniel Arnamart on 49.29. For Japan, Matsua clocked 49.80, Hagino 49.60, Keita Sunama on 50.82, and quadruple Olympic breaststroke champ Kosuke Kitajima displaying a freestyle skill and speed rarely seen - 50.99.