Kosuke Kitajima, breaststroke king, could make fifth Olympic team

Kosuke Kitajima
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Kosuke Kitajima, who swept the breaststrokes at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished second in the 100m breaststroke at the Japanese Championships on Tuesday and could make his fifth Olympic team.

Kitajima, 33, clocked 59.93 seconds as runner-up to Yasuhiro Koseki‘s 59.66, but both fell shy of the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard of 59.63 at a meet being billed as an Olympic trials by swimming media.

However, Kitajima clocked 59.62 as the fastest man in the semifinals Monday, making him the only man to meet the Japanese Olympic qualifying standard.

Kyodo News and Agence France-Presse reported that Koseki and Kitajima’s efforts in the final were not enough to secure either a Rio berth.

“I’m speechless,” Kitajima said, according to AFP. “It’s just so upsetting I couldn’t swim my usual race. I was thinking too much and swam a negative race. It’s my own problem, I’m gutted. I need to go and cool my head and come back ready for the 200 [breaststroke].”

Adding to the confusion is the fact that if Japan wants to enter the 4x100m medley relay in Rio, they will need a 100m breaststroker. The Japanese took silver in the event at the 2012 Olympics, with Kitajima, and sixth at the 2015 World Championships without him.

Kitajima’s semifinal time was his fastest since 2012 and swifter than all three of his swims at the London Games, where he finished a disappointing fifth in the 100m breast.

Kitajima failed to make the 2015 World Championships after finishing third in the 100m breast at last year’s Japan Championships. He was sixth in the 100m breast at the 2013 World Championships.

Kitajima could become the first breaststroker to swim in five Olympics, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon, MD, of OlympStats.com.

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