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Kanako Watanabe one of Japan’s best athletes that has made it to the top stage of international swimming

Updated on September 24, 2017

Who is Kanako Watanabe?

There are athletes that really make a name for themselves and rise to the top stage of international swimming. One such person is Kanako Watanabe who is now only just 20 years old. Kanako was born on November 15, 1996 in Tokyo Japan. Her parents are Keiji and Emiko Watanabe.

A first look at swimmer Kanako Watanabe

Watanabe makes history in 2012

Kanako made history when she booked her ticket to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And in doing so, she became the youngest Japanese athlete to accomplish this feat. She specializes in the breaststroke. In April 2012, Watanabe achieved a personal best time of 2:23:50 in her country’s national championships and she finished in second place. This finish was strong enough for her to win her spot on the Japanese women’s national swimming team! This success came in the 200 meter breaststroke event. She was part of a roster of 26 women, 16 of whom were to compete in their first Olympic Games. Four of these people were in high school at the time but Watanabe was the youngest in the group.

Watanabe wins a gold medal at the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships

Swimmer Kanako Watanabe celebrates as she reaches the finish line during the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships as she wins a gold medal.
Swimmer Kanako Watanabe celebrates as she reaches the finish line during the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships as she wins a gold medal. | Source

Kanako Watanabe's success in Asia

Japanese media referred to Watanabe as the “Second Kyoko Iwasaki.” But comparisons aside, Watanabe has had success since her earliest days in the sport of swimming. In 2010, she won both the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events in the junior high school championships. Watanabe like all great athletes suffered a setback when she injured her shoulder, forcing her to withdraw from the multi stroke individual medley events and switch to the breaststroke. By 2011, she proved that she was not just another teenage swimming talent. She beat many other older and more experienced athletes at that year’s Japan Open. This event has no age limit. Watanabe pulled off an impressive set of victories, winning in the 50, 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events! With the way that star athletes Karina Maruyama and Miwa Asao have risen to the top of their respective sports, Watanabe is on the way to becoming an international swimming phenomenon after first tasting major success in Japan. After she won a spot on the national team, she asked her parents to get her a smartphone! Kanako won a silver medal for the 200 meter individual medley event at the 2014 Asian Games. Ye Shiwen of China won gold at that event. However, prior to that event, Watanabe won gold in the 200 meter breaststroke final during the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Australia. She also won the 100 meter breaststroke final during the Japan Open and broke her country’s record for that event. Rie Kaneto finished in second place in this event.

Kanako Watanabe Celebrates After Winning 200 Meter Breaststroke

Swimmer Kanako Watanabe celebrates after winning the 200 meter breaststroke at the Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Swimmer Kanako Watanabe celebrates after winning the 200 meter breaststroke at the Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia. | Source

Watanabe Is Named Swimmer of the Year for 2015

The success for Watanabe continued in 2015. She was given a very prestigious honor. That was when she was named Japan’s Swimmer of the Year. Watanabe is considered a very viable candidate for a medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. However, her nation’s Olympic Trials event was scheduled to take place in early April 2016.

Watanabe's swimming style

Watanabe is known as a swimmer who has a squid-octopus kind of swimming style. This is because her kicking minimizes resistance in the water and this helps her to move forward in a more efficient way. According to her coach Ryuji Omi, her kicking style is less aggressive and really suits her because “it gives her the best propulsive efficiency in the water.”

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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