INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) – Japanese swimmer Kosuke Hagino was named as the MVP for the 17th Asian Games, which ended on Saturday, recognising his dominant performances in the pool.
The 20-year-old university student showed why he could be the man to take over from Michael Phelps as swimming’s ultimate ironman by winning seven medals, including four golds, in just six days of competition.
Showing no sign of fatigue or weariness despite his gruelling schedule, Hagino won the 200 and 400 metres individual medleys, two of the most exhausting events in swimming, as well as the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay.
He also won a silver medal in 400m freestyle and bronze medals in 100m and 200m backstroke.
“I’m honoured to win this award,” he told a news conference in Incheon on Saturday.
“I had no idea I could win this award at the beginning of the Asian Games.”
Kosuke Hagino holds his MVP award aloft. AP
Hagino joined Kosuke Kitajima (1998) and Park Tae-hwan (2006) as only the third swimmer to win the award, which was decided by a vote of journalists covering the Asian Games.
He was one of eight athletes shortlisted for the award but loomed as the favourite after winning the most gold and overall medals of the 9,500 competitors.
His win in the 200m freestyle was also one of the biggest moments of the Games as she stormed home on the last lap to beat Park and China’s Sun Yang, two of the world’s most accomplished swimmers.
“I knew that there won’t be many opportunities for me to compete against great athletes such as Sun Yang and Park Tae-hwan, so I didn’t want to waste the chance by submitting to nervousness,” Hagino said.
“It was a very exciting and memorable experience for me.”
Inspired by Phelps, Hagino has modelled his own programme and training on the American and now has his sights set on the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I’m confident that I will have improved my swimming ability by the Olympic Games,” he said.
“I’d like to obtain results that fit my level at the time of the competition, and record-wise I’d like to challenge the world records.”