Olympic Athletes >> Kosuke Kitajima
- Date of birth
- 5 (100m, 200m) - up to 11/08/2008
Olympic Games (6 medals: 4 gold, 2 bronze)
- 100m breaststroke: 1st (2004, 2008)
- 200m breaststroke: 1st (2004, 2008)
- 4x100m medley relay: 3rd (2004, 2008)
World Championships (11 medals: 3 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze)
- 50m breaststroke: 3rd (2005)
- 100m breaststroke: 1st (2003), 2nd (2005, 2007)
- 200m breaststroke: 1st (2003, 2007), 2nd (2011), 3rd (2001)
- 4x100m medley relay: 2nd (2007), 3rd (2003, 2005)
World Championships short-course (1 medal: 1 silver)
- 100m breaststroke: 2nd (2002)
Asian Games (6 medals: 6 gold)
- 100m breaststroke: 1st (2002, 2006)
- 200m breaststroke: 1st (2002, 2006)
- 4x100m medley relay: 1st (2002, 2006)
Rising to the occasion
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima has risen to the challenge twice in an infernal struggle with the American Brendan Hansen for supremacy of the breaststroke sprints and will be chasing a triple of double Olympic 100m and 200m titles in London.
Kitajima's rise was astronomical.
Fourth in the 100m breaststroke at the Sydney Olympics at 17, he was to smash American Mike Barrowman's 200m breaststroke record of ten years standing with a time of 2min 09.97 at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
He thereby became the first Asian to hold a men's world record since Nobutaka Taguchi took the 100-metre breaststroke mark at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
At the Barcelona world championships while still a 20-year-old university student he took both titles and set new world marks in each of the finals!
For the record, Tagushi's Munich record was 1min 04.94sec over 100m, while Kitajima's chrono 31-years later was 59.78sec.
A month ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics, Hansen set stunning new world marks over 100m and 200m and was talking up the fight to anyone who would listen.
Big day mentality
Kitajima was seeking Japan's first Olympic swimming gold for 12 years (Kyoko Iwasaki won the women's 200m breaststroke in 1992) and already had a track record of rising to the big occasion.
In the 100m final, Kitajima came from behind at 50m to beat the American by .16secs, Hansen's team unsuccessfully protesting at a so called dolphin kick the Japanese made on his turn.
In the 200m Kitajima led from start to finish.
Still remembered for his scream of "cho-kimochi-ii (I feel super good)" that accompanied his first Olympic double in Athens, the swimmer said he had been freed from pressure.
Hansen's words "An Olympic medal is for life, a world record can be broken in a day" must still be haunting him.
At the 2005 worlds, Kitajima took second to Hansen in the 100m and the American also took the 200m title as the Japanese struggled against his own motivation. At the 2007 worlds, Hansen again claimed the 100m just ahead of Kitajima, who won the 200m gold with Hansen sick.
At the Beijing Games in 2008, Kitajima broke the men's 100m breaststroke world record swimming a "perfect" race to win Olympic gold in 58.91sec. Hansen was shut out of the medals, finishing fourth. He narrowly missed his own world record when completing the double in the 200m with a dominant performance, later claiming he'd felt so calm he could pick out faces in the crowd.
He attended the 2009 world championships in Rome as a tv commentator during his 15-month post-Olympics layoff and could only look on as Australia's Brenton Rickard broke his 100m record and Christian Sprenger lowered his mark in the 200m.
Raring to beat the Australians and break the world marks they set in the era of high-tech swimming suits, Kitajima made his return at the World Championships in 2011, finishing second in the 200m breastroke.
"I want to hear people say, 'What were those high-speed swimsuits after all?'
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