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TANAKA, MITA SET NATIONAL MARKS AT JAPANESE NATIONALS -- April 23, 2000

TOKYO, April 22. Japan's Masami Tanaka swam the second fastest 200 meter breaststroke in history today in winning her semi-final heat at the Japanese National Championships in Tokyo. The 20-year-old breaststroke ace stroked 2:24.27 for the four-lap race; only South Africa's Penny Heyns, who set the world record of 2:23.64 last summer at the Pan Pacific Championships, has gone faster.
Actually Tanaka swam the second half of the race faster than Heyns did last year, splitting 1:10.59 -1:13.68.
Tanaka provided a glimpse of what was to come during prelims, when she glided to a 2:26.18 time, ersing the national and Asian record of 2:26.65 set by Kyoko Iwasaki in winning Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992.
Tanaka was one of two Japanese woman to set a national mark on this next to final day of the championships. Maki Mita celebrated her seventeenth birthday by stroking 2:18.13 for the 200 meter butterfly, erasing the 2:08.48 mark she set in prelims. Mita split 1:01.20 - 1:06.93 in her record swim.
Mita wasn't the only fast femle flyer. Yuko Nakanishi was second in 2:10.16 while Yasuko Tajima, who earlier set a national mark in the 400 IM (4:39.13), was third in 2;10.61, both personal bests.
Susumu Tabuchi, who set a national record in the men's 400 meter IM (4:16.04) earlier in the meet, came back today with another national mark in the 200 IM. Unfortunately, his 2:02.54 was swum in the semi-final. He could only manage a 2:03.46 in the final, which placed him third behind 16-year-old Jiro Miki (2:02.64) and veteran Tatsuya Kinugasa (2:03.14).
The men's 200 meter butterfly saw a battle to the wire between heavily favored Takashi Yamamoto and Hisayoshi Tanaka. In the end it was Yamamoto who won in 1:57.77, just ahead of Tanaka at 1:57.94. Both men should now be considered potential Olympic medalists.
The men's 200 meter breaststroke was another very close race with Akira Hayashi, 26, emerging the winner in 2:13.59, with Yoshiaki Okita (2:13.90) and Daisuke Okita (2:13.97) close behind. The fastest time in the event was recorded by 17-year-old Kosuke Kitajima, won earlier won the 100 in a national record 1:01.41. Kitajima stroked 2;13.47 in the semi finals, only to fall to fourth in the finals at 2:14.43. USC star Ryosuke Imai finished a disappointing eighth.
If anything, the men's 200 meter backstroke was even closer than the breaststroke, with Tsuyoshi Kitashita emerging the victor over 16-year-old Toshifumi Takeuchi by the slimmest of margins, 2:01.71 to 2:01.72. Keitaro Konnai, the pre-meet favorite who led through the prelims and semis, fell to eighth in the final.
In other men's events, Tomohiro Yamanoi was the winner in the 100 meter freestyle in 51.01. Masato Hirano took the 1500 in 15;20.59 after recording a 15:18.12 in prelims. Newcomer Yota Arase, 17, was second in 15:22.20.
In other women's events Sumika Mianmoto took the 100 meter freestyle in 55.59. SMU standout Naoko Imoto was second (56.22) while national record-holder Suzu Chiba was third (56.28).
Sachiko Yamada was not challenged in winning the 800 free, her 8:34.44 almost 11 seconds ahead of second-place Masae Maehara.