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2015 world champ Watanabe fails to advance to Rio breaststroke final

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Kanako Watanabe, last year's FINA World Aquatics Championships gold medalist in the women's 200-meter breaststroke, failed to advance to the event's Olympic final, finishing a somber 13th in the semifinals.

"After all, I guess nothing has changed," Watanabe said about her results, recalling her failure to advance to the final at the 2012 London Olympics at age 15 -- the youngest among the Japanese Olympic delegation back then.

Watanabe is normally a strong finisher in her races. She was in seventh when she turned after the first 100 meters in the Aug. 10 semifinals, but she couldn't pick up her speed from then on. In the last 50 meters, she was overtaken by a competitor, and finished last in her race.

Yoshiaki Takemura, head coach of the Japanese women's swimming team, said, "Watanabe had doubts about her stamina and couldn't endure in the latter half. In the end, she failed to overcome uncertainties stemming from her lack of practice during the winter."

After she clinched the title at the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships and quickly ensured a berth at Rio 2016, Takemura told her, "Now you must aim for an Olympic medal and change yourself mentally" -- which apparently put pressure on Watanabe. Under so much stress, she was unable to concentrate on her training.

Watanabe is regarded as a 2020 Tokyo Olympics medal hopeful, when she will be 23, but after being questioned if she wants to swim in the Games again, she replied, "I can't say 'yes' right now." (By Tatsuya Haga, Mainichi Shimbun)

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