Kitajima keeps triple double dream alive
TOKYO, April 6 — Kosuke Kitajima won the men’s 200 metres breaststroke at the Japanese national championships today to keep alive his bid for a third Olympic double in London this year.
The 29-year-old, who stormed to gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the 2004 and 2008 Games, became the first Japanese swimmer to qualify for four Olympics by breaking his own national record in the 100 earlier this week.
Kitajima clocked two minutes 8.00 seconds to win the 200 at Tokyo’s Tatsumi Pool, fighting off a determined last 50 from Ryo Tateishi, who touched in 2:08.17.
“I can’t speak!” gasped Kitajima, struggling for breath after a rousing battle with Tateishi, who also qualified for London as runner-up in the 100 and 200.
“I was right on my limit at the end as you saw,” said Kitajima. “But that’s the sort of race I live for and to prove I can still do it gives me confidence.”
Both men beat Hungarian Daniel Gyurta’s world championship winning time of 2:08.41 in Shanghai last year.
Kitajima’s national record stands at 2:07.51 while Australia’s Christian Sprenger holds the world record at 2:07.31.
“You expect it of Kosuke but for both he and Tateishi to swim faster than the Shanghai gold medal time is amazing,” said Japan coach Norimasa Hirai.
“If Kosuke can push all the way through in that last 50 he stands a chance of doing the 100 and 200 double again.”
A disappointed Tateishi said: “I thought I’d catch him right at the end, but job done.”
Kitajima winced when asked about the possibility of a third Olympic double.
“It definitely won’t be easy,” said Kitajima, who flirted with retirement after blowing away his rivals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“But the fire is still there to keep improving and going quicker — and to prove myself again at the Olympics. It’s still the stuff of dreams to prove yourself at an Olympics.” — Reuters