Japan swim star Kosuke Hagino to miss 2019 World Championships
The 4-time Olympic medallist pulled out of the Japanese nationals in April and now he'll miss the Worlds in July, a year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Kosuke Hagino will not be competing at the World Championships this year,” Hagino’s management agency communicated in an email.
“He is taking some time off and will be preparing for next year.” - Kosuke Hagino's agency
The posterboy of Japanese swimming just can't seem to get back into the right mental space and physical shape to recover his world-beating form.
He pulled out of the April 2019 Japan nationals citing a 'loss of motivation'.
But with Tokyo 2020 approaching fast, Hagino's state of mind has become a national concern.
Swim sensation loses motivation
The last time Hagino spoke to the world through his social media and his official website he talked about how poor results and performances had led to him losing his way.
The Japanese swim sensation explained why he wouldn't take part in the nationals in April:
"I’ve been unable to achieve the results I had hoped for since the 2017 season," he said.
"As the gap between my targets and reality has widened, it has become harder for me to maintain my motivation."
"I have accepted the fact that I am in no condition to focus on the sport, and thus I have made the decision," Hagino added.
"We support you," read one message.
That return hasn't emerged, however, and Hagino's dip has coincided with the emergence of USA swim talent Chase Kalisz.
For many Hagino was the best all-round swimmer in the world between 2014 and 2016, but 2017 saw the U.S. swimmer overtake his Japanese rival.
Hagino's 2016 Rio gold medal was near-miraculous after he broke his elbow in a bike accident and missed the world championships in 2015, but since then it's Kalisz who's ruled the individual medley on the international stage.
At the 2017 Worlds Kalisz took a clean sweep of the individual medleys, and then in the summer of 2018 he repeated that feat at the Pan Pacific Championships.
Hagino had to settle for silver and bronze.
Tokyo 2020 comeback?
And while the Japanese swimmer struggles to find his lost form, Kalisz is going from strength to strength.
In the FINA Champions Swim Series 2019 the American claimed first place in the 200m fly (1:56.91) and 200m IM (1:58.41), becoming the only men's double winner in the entire competition.
He won't have to contend with his rival Kosuke in Gwangju but can Japan's great hope recover what took him to the top of the world in 2016?
Japan's swim fans will be holding their breath as the 2020 Games grow ever closer.