Swimming

Mind over matter as Japanese swimmer Yui Ohashi bags double

Japanese takes Hosszu's 400m & 200m IM titles after overcoming depression

Japan's Yui Ohashi was a reluctant star after completing the individual medley double with victory in the 200m yesterday, adding that her triumph was reward for persevering when she struggled from depression and wanted to give up swimming.

Ohashi, who won the 400m medley last Sunday, produced a strong finishing freestyle leg to win the 200m medley in 2min 8.52sec, ahead of Americans Alex Walsh (2:08.65) and Kate Douglass (2:09.04).

Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who had won both medley events in Rio de Janeiro, was unable to keep pace with Ohashi, finishing seventh and nearly four seconds behind.

Ohashi let out a cheer and pumped her hand in the air after touching the wall, saying it was hard to believe she had won.

"I swam believing in myself. I really did not think of winning the gold," said the 25-year-old.

"I swam the last part of the race thinking win or lose, I want to be able to say I have no regrets. I made it somehow."

Such self-belief was hard-won for Ohashi after battling two health crises that threatened her career.

The first was when she suffered extreme fatigue before being diagnosed with anaemia in 2015, forcing an overhaul of her diet and training regimen.

The second was in 2019, when she faced anxiety and depression problems believing her performance had peaked after placing third in the 400m IM at the world championships.

Ohashi regained confidence with help from her parents and coach.

"I had times when I wanted to give up swimming but I learned to accept it and turn it into a strength," she said after yesterday's win at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Her rise in fortunes contrasted with Hosszu, who won the same 200m and 400m IM double in Rio.

In the 200m freestyle final, Australia's Ariarne Titmus dethroned American Katie Ledecky again, having already taken her 400m crown.

Titmus won in an Olympic record time of 1min 53.50sec, with Ledecky finishing fifth.

Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey took the silver (1:53.92), while Canada's Penny Oleksiak was third (1:54.70).

But Ledecky won the inaugural women's 1,500m in 15:37.34, four seconds ahead of compatriot Erica Sullivan, equalling the feat of Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi in winning a fifth individual Olympic swimming gold medal.

In the men's competitions, Hungary's Kristof Milak won the 200m butterfly in an Olympic record time of 1:51.25, ahead of Japan's Tomoru Honda (1:53.73) and Italy's Federico Burdisso (1:54.45).

Milak, 21, broke Michael Phelps' 1:52.03 Games record set at Beijing 2008.

He might even have been able to lower his world record of 1:50.73 set at the 2019 World Championships, if not for a last-minute emergency regarding his trunks.

He said: "They split 10 minutes before I entered the pool and in that moment, I knew the world record was gone. I lost my focus and knew I couldn't do it."

In the 4x200m freestyle relay, the British quartet of Tom Dean, James Guy , Matthew Richards and Duncan Scott claimed the gold in 6:58.58, ahead of a Russian Olympic Committee side and Australia.

The US, who were without Caeleb Dressel, finished fourth. It's the first time any US men's or women's relay team has ever finished outside the podium places. - AFP, REUTERS

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