In 2012, Michael Phelps saw the writing on London’s Aquatic Centre scoreboard. In the third of four preliminary heats of the Olympic 400-meter individual medley, the Japanese teenager Kosuke Hagino clocked at 4 minutes 10.01 seconds.
Phelps, the world-record holder in the event since 2002, remembered cringing, because he was in the final heat and Hagino’s time was faster than he had expected to have to push himself.
In the Olympic final, Hagino pushed Phelps off the medals podium and toward retirement when he edged him for the bronze. A year later, Hagino competed in six individual events and one relay at the world championships in Barcelona, Spain, and collected two seconds, three fifths and a seventh.
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