Olympic hopefuls: Pan Pacs perfect prep for 2020

Reuters
Many of the world's top swimmers will have the chance to get accustomed to the Olympic host city as it stages the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, starting today.
Reuters

Two years before the Tokyo 2020 Games, many of the world’s top swimmers will have the chance to get accustomed to the Olympic host city as it stages the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, starting today.

The quadrennial event, returning to Japan for the first time since 2002, boasts an elite international field, including five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky and Australia’s 400 meters freestyle Olympic champion Mack Horton.

There is also a strong home contingent, featuring five-time Olympic medalist Kosuke Hagino.

“This will kind of be a block that we will work on towards Tokyo 2020,” Horton, 23, told reporters yesterday. “This is kind of the first step, I guess, in that prep but I think this meet is also about becoming comfortable in Japan and getting used to Tokyo so that in two years it is easy.”

Compatriot Cate Campbell, two-time Olympic relay gold medalist and four-time winner at the Pan Pacs, said the event would stand them in good stead for 2020. “This will be a good stepping stone and we will be following the same process for the next two years leading into Tokyo.”

Ledecky, the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle world record holder, said: “I know a lot of us have our eyes on Tokyo 2020 and this is a great experience for all of us to see the city and really learn how to compete in Japan.

“For me, its my first time competing in Asia or even being in Asia so it is about learning the travel and the atmosphere of competing and racing in front of this crowd,” the American, 21, added.

For Hagino, who won the 400 individual medley gold in Rio, the Pan Pacs will give swimmers the chance to lay down a marker ahead of the Games.

“Obviously, before the Olympic Games in 2020 this may be the last big opportunity for us to compete together,” said the 23-year-old.

The championships, which run for four days in the pool before the open water swimming on Tuesday, will be held in Tokyo’s Tatsumi International Swimming Centre, which will host water polo during the Olympics.

The 2020 Games swimming events will be held at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, currently under construction just down the road.

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