Hagino breaks through for Japan

Japan's Kosuke Hagino exorcised the demons of a horror 2015 season yesterday morning (Singapore time) as he romped to Olympic gold in the men's 400 metres individual medley, an event American swimmers have owned for decades.

The Asian champion, who pipped Michael Phelps to take bronze behind gold-medallist Ryan Lochte in London four years ago, dominated the Rio final a year after the heartbreak of missing the world championships through injury.

Hagino won in four minutes and 6.05 seconds after holding off late pressure from American Chase Kalisz, and celebrated by slapping the pool wall with both hands and letting out a roar of delight.

"A lot of things were going on in my head after the heats," Hagino said, after recording the third-fastest time in history behind world-record holder Phelps and Lochte.

"I was thinking about a lot of stuff, but I decided not to over-analyse and just go for it," added the 21-year-old, who became the first non-American winner in the event since Hungary's Tamas Darnyi at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Phelps opted out of the gruelling event he has dubbed "swimming's decathlon" while Lochte failed to qualify at the American trials.

Hagino had only qualified third-fastest for the final, but caught fellow Japanese Daiya Seto at the end of the first lap of backstroke before accelerating away.

"I can still go faster," Hagino said.

"It wasn't perfect but it was enough to win the gold medal and that's a fantastic result."

Kalisz wore a smile as wide as Hagino's after offering late resistance.

"He's a world-class freestyler and freestyle is not my best stroke," he said. - AFP.

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