Chuo Online

  • Top
  • Opinion
  • Research
  • Education
  • People
  • RSS

Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2013 Summer Issue]>Changing the history of freestyle swimming Shinri Shioura posts a new Japanese record to win the men’s 50 meters at the JAPAN SWIM 2013

Hakumon CHUOIndex


Changing the history of freestyle swimming

Shinri Shioura posts a new Japanese record to win the men’s 50 meters at the JAPAN SWIM 2013

The Japan Swim 2013 (Niigata City) featured prominent swimmers such as Olympic medalist Kosuke Kitajima. On April 14th, the final day of the championships, Shinri Shioura (4th-year student in the Faculty of Law) of the Chuo University Swimming Team posted a Japanese record of 20.03 seconds to win the men’s 50 meter freestyle. His victory made him eligible to represent Japan at the FINA World Championships (starting July 28th; Barcelona, Spain). When competing in the European Grand Prix, otherwise known Mare Nostrum, prior to the championships, Shinri captured medals in all 5 races for the 3 events in which he competed. The performance added momentum to Shinri’s quest to beat the world’s best.

Student Reporter: Izumi Seki (3rd-year student in the Faculty of Letters)

Breaking a bone in the pool

I won! (Photograph by Michi Ono, reporter for Chuo University Sports Newspaper Club (award photographs below also by Ono)

The men’s 50 meter freestyle is the specialty of Chuo University swimmers. Shinri carries on the tradition by continuing to post outstanding times. His goal is to compete in his first Olympics at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also won the 100 meter freestyle at the Japan Swim 2013. “I’m going to change the history of freestyle swimming,” he said, his confidence adding even more of an aura to his 188-centimter, 90-kilogram frame.

Shinri graduated from the Shonan Institute of Technology High School in Kanagawa Prefecture. The school also produced tennis athlete Ai Sugiyama. During his 3rd year at high school, Shinri won both the 50 meter and 100 meter at the Interscholastic Athletic Meet. After entering Chuo University, he won bronze medals in the same two events at the 2011 Summer Universiade held in Shenzhen, China in August 2011. In September, he posted a new Japanese record of 22.11 seconds (at that time) at the Intercollege Swimming Championship.

In this way, Shinri continued to enjoy outstanding success. He was just a short time away from the London Olympics in July 2012. His dream was about to come true. He was the subject of high expectations both from himself and others. Then, in January 2012, he broke the index finger on his left hand. He had overestimated the distance between the touch panel when touching the goal at the end of the race. His finger crashed down vertically on the wall. “It’s common for swimmers to jam their fingers when touching the goal,” he says. However, a broken bone was almost unheard of.

The injury caused the grip strength of his left hand to fall from 70 kilograms to 12 kilograms. (Grip strength of 70 kilograms is herculean strength—enough to crush an apple. The average man has a grip strength of 40 kilograms. 12 kilograms is equivalent to an elementary student.)

No time was left until the selection for Olympic representatives. Shinri felt panicked by the unexpected accident and his times began to increase. The Japan Swim 2013 was held in April as an Olympic qualifier. Shinri finished 3rd in both the 50 meters and 100 meters, missing his chance to compete in the Olympics.

“I’m going to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.” Ever since he was in high school, Shinri firmly believed that he would participate in the London Olympics. He persevered through tough practices. He lost sight of his goal and couldn’t find his direction. He couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to the Olympics. His commitment and desire to continue swimming began to wane. After much deliberation, he decided to search for employment after graduating from university.

“There is no point in continuing,” he thought. “I’m going to end my swimming career at university.” After practice, Shinri participated in job-search seminars held by the university. At one point, he revealed his intentions to his coach Yusuke Takahashi (Professor in the Faculty of Science and Engineering; staff member of the JOC Training Committee), who had been watching practice.

His coach gave a surprisingly straightforward answer: “Really? Well, do whatever you want to do. Do whatever makes you the happiest. There is no point in continuing if you aren’t going to give it your best effort.”

Shinri was taken aback. As Chuo’s ace swimmer, he was sure that coach Takahashi would encourage him to continue. “I guess that’s that,” thought Shinri.

Even after deciding to stop swimming, Shinri was still confused. He wasn’t sure which he should focus on more—swimming practice or job searching. Indeed, he wasn’t sure which he wanted to do more. Left in a state of indecision, Shinri trained half-heartedly for swimming and competed in the Intercollege Swimming Championship in September.

His Japanese record was broken by his rival Kenta Ito (student at Chukyo University at that time; now an employee of Miki House Co., Ltd.), who is one year older than Shinri. “I lost,” thought Shinri. “I knew I was going to lose.” Swimming in the lane next to Shinri, Kenta posted a time of 22.05 seconds. Upon seeing the downfallen Shinri, coach Takahashi spoke up: “Get the record back!”

While sitting on the pedestal, Shinri shifted in an attempt to get away. He could see clearly that his record had been broken. He felt deeply chagrined. The competitive fire which he had been ignoring began to burn brightly.

Looking back, the people around him had always been there for him in both good times and bad times. His friends had given him handouts from class when he wasn’t able to attend because of races. His coaches had always given him attentive instruction. His teammates had always inspired him and his parents had always supported him. Everyone expected him to accomplish great things.

“It would be a waste to quit now,” he thought. “There is no point in continuing if you aren’t going to give it your best effort”—that’s what coach Takahashi had said. “What kind of effort am I capable of giving?” thought Shinri. “What was the meaning of all the effort which I have given until now? Where should I put my focus?”

Shinri though about swimmer Kosuke Kitajima, who still continues to compete even after capturing gold medals at the Athens and Beijing Olympics, and a silver medal at the London Olympics. After much confusion, Shinri felt the pool calling him. He devoted himself once more to the world of swimming which he had been neglecting.

Becoming a wire

From last October, Shinri devoted himself to practice with renewed vigor. He worked hard to improve his start, an area which he had trouble with. The start is the most important part of short-distance races. It’s impossible to catch up when lagging behind from the outset.

Shinri concentrated on keeping his body straight and hard when entering the water. He made his body into a wire when diving into the water. Keeping such form requires strong muscles, so he trained his abdominals and lower back even harder than before.

He shaved his body carefully before competition. Although he usually only shaved his shins, he shaved his armpits for the first time before the Japan Swim. Such careful shaving is said to reduce water resistance ever so slightly. “I’ll do anything to reduce my time by even 0.01 second!” proclaimed Shinri.

He was in top condition on the day of the championships. The tension before the start galvanized him for the race. “All athletes feel nervous,” he explains. “However, I believe that everyone swims because they enjoy that feeling of nervousness.”

Shinri put everything in the lane and dove into the pool. Fast! Faster! Faster than anyone! He swam forward putting all of his strength into each stroke. Shinri needed 33 strokes to swim the 50 meters. He stretched his fingers as far as they would go and reached an unprecedented speed.

His time was 20.03 seconds—a new Japanese record. He had recaptured his stolen crown through his outstretched left hand. After the long slump, Shinri felt special joy in setting his second Japanese record.

“I’m glad I persevered!” he exclaimed.

Finding employment in the pool

Student reporter Izumi Seki stands next to 188-centimeter Shinri

“I was worried about what I would do in the future and felt relieved at posting a good time,” recalls Shinri. “I felt great to post a new Japanese record.” Although he could use university facilities while he was a student, Shinri needs to post good results in order to secure practice facilities for himself in the future. Just like baseball players need a diamond and soccer players need a field, swimmers need a pool. When watching television, it appears that all athletes are provided with the necessary facilities. However, to enjoy such a training environment, it is necessary to produce good results and find a sponsor.

From now, Shinri must search for employment through swimming. Unless he posts good results, there is no guarantee that he will have a place to practice tomorrow or a spot in the Olympics in the future. Athletes must devote themselves completely to their sport.

There are 3 years left until the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. If Shinri can shave 0.03 seconds off his time, he will break the 20-second barrier—something which no Japanese swimmer has ever done. Shinri gives every ounce of himself in pursuit of unparalleled speed.