Kosuke Kitajima

Kosuke Kitajima
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Kosuke Kitajima retires after missing Japan Olympic team, reports say

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Kosuke Kitajima, the most decorated breaststroker of all time, retired after failing to automatically qualify for a fifth Japanese Olympic team on Friday, according to several Japanese media reports.

Kitajima, who swept the breaststrokes at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished fifth in the 200m breaststroke at the Japanese Olympic Trials in his last shot at automatic selection.

“It’s over,” Kitajima said, according to Agence France-Presse. “I knew my career would end in Rio or here in Tokyo this week. I’ve got no regrets.”

Kitajima, 33, was second in the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday but didn’t meet Japan’s Olympic qualifying standard time in the final. Nor did the first-place finisher.

Kitajima had the fastest 100m breast time at the trials, meeting the standard in the semifinals, but that wasn’t enough for automatic selection.

If Japan wants to enter the 4x100m medley relay in Rio, it will need a 100m breaststroker. The Japanese took silver in the medley relay at the 2012 Olympics, with Kitajima, and sixth at the 2015 World Championships without him.

Kitajima is stronger in the 100m breast than the 200m breast. He made the 2013 Worlds team in the 100m breast but not the 200m breast and failed to make the 2015 Worlds team altogether.

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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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