PHOENIX, Arizona, September 27. OLYMPIC legend Kosuke Kitajima wants to continue swimming toward a berth on the 2016 Japanese Olympic team, despite the lack of winning individual medals in London and the emergence of a new breaststroke star in recent weeks.
Kitajima, who will be 34 years old if he makes the Olympic team in 2016, won gold in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, but was shut out of the medals in those events this year. He did leave London with a silver medal in the 400 medley relay, an upgrade from the two bronze medals Japan collected in that event in Athens and Beijing. In an article posted today by Yomuri Online, Kitajima said he's not retiring, and Rio is a definite goal.
Kitajima will have a lot of work to do in order to secure a place on his fifth Olympic squad (he also competed in 2000). He finished behind countryman Ryo Tateishi in the 200 breast in London, placing fourth. About five weeks later, 18-year-old Akihiro Yamaguchi broke the world record in the 200 breaststroke, putting Kitajima in the third spot among Japanese swimmers in the 200 breast. He would also have to fight off Tateishi and Yamaguchi in the 100 breast.
The next test for Kitajima will be qualifying for the 2013 world championship team, but the swimming legend has not made an official decision concerning where he'll train. Dave Salo, who has coached Kitajima since 2009 at the University of Southern California, told Swimming World today that “I have no commitment from him at this time that he will remain in the USA to train.”
Would Kitajima return to Norimasa Hirai, the coach who guided him to Olympic success in 2004 and 2008? Hirai was the driving force behind Yamaguchi's world record, and will start working with rising star Kosuke Hagino, who won a bronze medal in the 400 IM in London.
Takahisa Ide contributed to reporting this story.