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Kitajima gives Japan chance of glory
July 29, 2004 11:49 IST
If it wasn't for Michael Phelps, Japanese breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima would have been the star of last year's world swimming championships.
The 21-year-old from Tokyo set world records in the 100 metres and 200m breaststroke to give Asia their first male world champion swimmer.
Now Kitajima is hoping to provide the region with their first male Olympic champion since Daichi Suzuki won the 100m backstroke in 1988 even though American Brendan Hansen broke both his records at last month's U.S. trials.
Kitajima finished a close fourth in the 100m at the Sydney Olympics as a 17-year-old and was 17th in the 200m but has made great strides since.
He was fourth again in the 100m at the 2001 world championships in Fukuoka but collected his first major medal when he finished third in the 200m.
He confirmed his position as the rising name of men's breaststroke when he broke the 200m world record at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, eclipsing the 10-year-old mark of American Mike Barrowman.
He became the first Asian man to hold a swimming world record since Nobutaka Taguchi held the 100m breaststroke record in 1972.
Kitajima, a student at the Nippon Sport Science University in Tokyo, added the 100m record when he won gold at Barcelona in 2003, flashing home from sixth at the halfway stage.
His 200m world record had fallen to Russia's Dmitri Komornikov just before the world championships but Kitajima snatched it back to win his second title and is hoping to do the same to Hansen in Athens.