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Asian Games: Irie aims for backstroke dominance ahead of 2020 Olympics

Ryosuke Irie (Mainichi)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Veteran swimmer Ryosuke Irie said Thursday he hopes to head toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on a high by completing a four-peat in the 200-meter backstroke and three-peat in the 100 at the Asian Games.

"(The Asian Games) are considered the Olympics of Asia. They will be a high point as I aim for the Tokyo Olympics in two years' time," the 28-year-old told reporters after a training session at the Aquatics Stadium in Jakarta.

Irie, who won two silver medals at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships last week in Tokyo, will be up against China's 2017 world champion Xu Jiayu in the 100 backstroke at the Asian Games, which officially start Saturday.

Irie, who missed out on a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics after winning two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Games, feels renewed motivation to win a medal in Tokyo, having put aside thoughts of ending his competitive career.

"I want to swim the 200 backstroke in the 1 minute, 54-second range and beat the (52.78 seconds) I clocked (for the 100) at the Pan Pacific Championships," Irie said. "I am a little tired but am fully trained with a solid mindset."

Irie and his compatriots are aiming for a gold rush at the Asian Games through Sept. 2 in Jakarta and Palembang.

Among the men, Rio Olympics gold medalist Kosuke Hagino, who was named most valuable player at the previous 2016 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, as well as Rio bronze medalist Daiya Seto aim to dominate the first two spots on the podium in individual medleys.

In the women's events, 18-year-old Rikako Ikee seeks to win all four individual races she will contest -- the 50 and 100 butterfly and freestyle, while Yui Ohashi looks to prevail in the 200 and 400 individual medleys.

"I want to go back to Japan with a gold medal," said Ohashi, who won the 100 butterfly in a national and meet record time at the Pan Pacific Championships.

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