Japanese Olympic Trials: Kosuke Kitajima Just Off 200 Breast World Record

By Hideki Mochizuki, Swimming World Japanese Correspondent

TOKYO, Japan, April 19. KOSUKE Kitajima took a run at Brendan Hansen's world record in the men's 200 breast, but came up short at the Japanese Olympic Trials held in Tokyo.

Kitajima almost broke the world record of 2:08.50 set by Hansen at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships. Kitajima, however, settled for smashing his national record of 2:09.42 from 2003 with a jaw-dropping 2:08.84. He split the race in 29.03, 1:01.77 and 1:35.08.

"I heard the crowd cheer for me and knew I was on world-record pace," Kitajima said. "It was real close. I will try to put the Japanese flag once again on the center pole. This was a really good finish, and encouraged me."

Second-place finisher Yuta Suenaga joined Kitajma in a joking mood.

"I will put another flag right next to the center pole," Suenaga said after clocking a 2:10.17.

"Today, I proved that what I have done in training was right," an emotional Kitajima said. "I have not had a personal best for five years. My strategy was to just maintain the first 150 and raise the pace in the last 50. It was almost as planned at least until 150. On top of Brendan Hansen, we now have more formidable contenders globally, but the race today really pushed and encouraged me. I hope to have the best race in Beijing again. It was almost as if a cloud went away and a beautiful sun came out."

Kitajima also noted his stroke rate was 15-15-15-19 for each 50 meters.

In the women's 200 fly, Yuko Nakanishi marked a Japanese record with a 2:06.38, while second-place finisher Natsumi Hoshi set a high school record with a 2:07.75 as both were selected for Beijing.

"I was shooting for 2:05, so I don't feel completely great," Nakanishi said. "I will take the trip to Beijing. My event is the 200 and I trained for it."

"I just focused with a never give-up attitude," Hoshi said. "I will be very nervous in Beijing, but will definitely give it my best shot."

In the first final of the day, Ai Shibata, who missed qualifying in the 400 free, clocked a time of 8:28.69 in the women's 800 free to barely earn a spot on the Beijing roster.

"I heard the cheer and believed in myself that I can do it," Shibata said. "I was actually shocked after the 400, but tried to focus on the 800."

In the men's 200 back, upcoming Japanese ace Ryosuke Irie won in 1:57.37, while Takashi Nakano took second in 1:58.22. Both cleared the Olympic standard.

"After semis, it was tough mentally," Irie said while almost crying. "I could not beat by personal best, but it is such a dream to go to the Olympics. Now, I will shoot for a medal in this event."

In semis, Hanae Itoh and Reiko Nakamura proceeded to finals as the top two qualifiers with times of 2:09.98 and 2:10.82, respectively. Takuro Fujii set a Japanese record in the men's 100 fly with a time of 52.14, beating the old record of 52.27 set by Takashi Yamamoto.

Event results.