**Update** Previous version of the post featured an image from the 2016 Junior Olympics. It has now been updated.
I've just gotten back from Japan's 39th National Junior Olympic Cup, held at Tokyo's Tatsumi International Swimming Center. This is my second year attending the meet, and it has continued to be both a memorable and educational experience competing with these athletes of such high caliber.
This year I've qualified for the 50m freestyle with a time of 26.01 (LCM) and the 100m backstroke with a time of 1:00. 78 (SCM). The official qualifying times can be found here: http://www.swim.or.jp/compe_swim/record2016/detail_10.php (changes with each year).
For the 50 free, I came in 9th with a time of 24.23 (SCM). I was honestly stunned with this time and ranking, and although I missed out on the finals by 0.03 seconds, I still consider this to be one of the best swims of my life, especially considering that I was the younger one in the age group, and that my previous SCM personal best was 25.76. My feel for the water was stunning, and I was riding over the waves so smoothly. The one spot I think I fell short was my turn, which I went into slowing down by a fraction of a second with an extra, unplanned breath.
My 100 back, on my second day of racing, placed outside of the top 20, which was unfortunate, but I am still satisfied with my swim. I went a 59.67 (SCM), which was also a personal best, but I feel like with some better pacing, I probably could've gone a 58 and placed within the top 20. On my first 50, I went out a 28.2 (including the turn), which was already 0.3 faster than my previous 50 back personal best. A flat-out sprint with a proper finish probably would've yielded a 27.5. However, I definitely paid for it on the way back, touching in at 31.4. I find that my legs are incredibly tolling in backstroke, and usually, I let them drag behind me, making my hips and back do the work. My feel for the water might have been too powerful, making me go out faster than I should have. Additionally, my taxed legs meant that I didn't come off the third wall very fast, especially considering that, usually, my underwaters are what gives me a lead over other swimmers.
All in all, being able to attend such a competitive meet abroad has been a great privilege. The caliber of the athletes in Japan has been jaw-dropping compared to what I'm used to here in Taiwan. In fact, few of our age group champions can even qualify for the meet, let alone win. Moreover, the depth of the swimming is truly awe-inspiring. In the 50 free, everyone from 6th place to 48th place went a 24, a time that would easily snag a gold medal in Taiwan.
Once again, it has truly been a pleasure and privilege to have had this remarkable experience.
Race videos can be found here:
https://freshlive.tv/jasf/98637 (50 free @ 3:17.50, lane 6 in the red cap)
https://freshlive.tv/jasf/98638 (100 back @ 1:01.50, lane 3 in the red cap)