Feature | Swimming

Seto Daiya: Shellshocked by Tokyo 2020 postponement

Four-time world swimming champion breaks silence since Games were moved to 2021 promising to stay strong after being devastated at first.

By Shintaro Kano ·

World champion Seto Daiya spoke for the first time since the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, confessing he was devastated by the decision to push back the Games by a year.

In a heartfelt Twitter post on Friday (10 April), the Japanese swimmer said he had been in ruins since it was announced on 24 March that the Games, originally scheduled for 24 July-9 August, had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's been two weeks since the Tokyo Olympics were postponed", Seto said.

"After that, the national championships were also postponed. I have not been able to say anything for next year until now because I just could not come to grips with everything.

"I couldn't think of anything positive to say because I had dedicated myself so much to the Tokyo Olympics. When the postponement was announced I was left with a gaping hole I couldn't fill - I was empty". - Seto Daiya.

Picture perfect

Tipped to be one of Japan's best gold-medal favourites at the Tokyo Olympic Games, everything was going right for Seto towards the summer.

Steadily building on the bronze he won in the men's 400-meter individual medley at Rio 2016, the 25-year-old had punched his ticket for Tokyo 2020 by winning both the 400 and 200 IM at last year's world championships, becoming the first Japanese swimmer to qualify for the Games.

In December, Seto smashed the short-course world record in the 400 IM by 0.69 seconds and in January, came within 0.04 of the Japan record of 4:06.09 held by his friend and Rio 2016 gold medallist Hagino Kosuke.

Out of the pool, Seto was married in 2017 and had his first daughter the following year. Emerging as one of the faces of the Tokyo Games, endorsement deals poured in for the four-time world champion.

Seto Daiya says he was gutted by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.


Then COVID-19 struck.

The Games Seto worked so hard for were rescheduled for 23 July-8 August, 2021. He was peaking in time for the nationals in April, which dubbed as the Olympic trials, only to see the meet cancelled.

Everything Seto had built during the four-year cycle of the Games collapsed, just like that.

"There was no way I could bring myself to talk about next year and honestly, I'm still struggling to pick up the pieces and regroup. Because of the coronavirus, I'm not training at all these days", he said.

But Seto - generally a model of positivity - realises it's time to get back to work, whenever the coronavirus lets him.

All smiles: Seto Daiya poses after winning the 400 IM at the 2019 FINA World Championships.

After all, the Games are on and as long as he stays healthy, there is no reason to doubt that gold medals will continue to be within reach for Seto in the summer of 2021.

"Whether it's next year or the year after that, I'm going to stay strong and build it back up slowly but surely in trying to win a gold medal, no matter what. It's time for me to start again!" Seto said.

"I need to think about what I need to do realise my dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. The work I have put in has led me to swim faster but I need to build on what I have achieved so far and improve my times even more.

"The Olympics, to me, is the absolute dream and on par with nothing else. All the experiences, feelings I have had I owe to the Olympics.