YASUNARI “YASU” HIRAI

SWIMMER – OLYMPIAN – ICON

With the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games around the corner, Yasunari “Yasu” Hirai is one of Japan’s most influential swimmers in the Open Water category, specifically the 10km event. His constant evolution and sheer dedication has kept him competing on an international level for ten years with future intentions to remain a consistent representative of the Japanese National Swimming Team.

First entering the pool at a very young age, Yasu rose to prominence in 2008 by placing 1st in the 400m Freestyle event at Japan’s National High School Championship and later participated in the 2008 FINA Youth World Swimming Championship in Monterrey (Mexico). By 2009, Yasu had entered the Open Water division where his endurance and dedication to long-distance swimming led him to secure a position on the Japanese National Team by 2010. One year later, in 2011, Yasu competed at the 14th edition of the FINA World Championships in Shanghai (China), yet his first significant international accomplishment came slightly later in the year at the XXVI Summer Universiade in Shenzhen (China) where he received a bronze medal in the 10km event.

His assiduity secured him a position on the Japanese Olympic Team for the 2012 London Olympics, becoming Japan’s first ever Olympic Open Water representative and finishing in 15th place in the 10km event. His list of accomplishments continued with each succeeding year, competing at the 2013 and 2015 FINA World Championships in Barcelona (Spain) and Kazan (Russia), respectively, as well as the 2013 XXVII Summer Universiade in Kazan (Russia). After graduating with a degree in Economics from the Meiji University in Japan, Yasu relocated to Australia to join the Bond Swimming Team at the University of Western Australia and thereafter TSS, where he trained in an elite team of three. The following year, he placed 6th at the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championship in Queensland, Australia. Returning to the Olympic stage at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Yasu placed 8th in the 10km event with a time of 1:53:04.6, only 4.8 seconds after the 1st place Champion. In 2017, he competed at the FINA World Championships in Budapest (Hungary) as well as being the Champion of the Asian Swimming Championships in Tokyo (Japan).

Yasu stands out as a very individual swimmer who relies on his own capacity without the assistance of a permanent trainer; he is a global traveler who chooses to train with different national teams. With his eyes set on the podium at Tokyo 2020, Yasu is improving his ability and condition through various training camps: in April, he joined the Swedish team to Hurghada (Egypt); in May, he joined the Dutch team to Eindhoven (the Netherlands); and next, he will join the German team to for high-altitude training at Font Romeu (France). His upcoming competition will be the Monaco Grand Prix in indoor swimming.

Currently residing in central Tokyo, his interests outside of swimming has allowed him to develop a deep knowledge of fashion, street culture, and marital arts.