Speedo Signs Kitajima

TOKYO, February 9. SPEEDO announced today that it has signed Japanese superstar, Kosuke Kitajima, to an endorsement contract.

Kitajima, who holds world records over 100m and 200m breaststroke and is considered one of the biggest names within Asian sport, graced the cover of the January 2004 issue of Swimming World after the magazine named him "Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year" for 2003. He also finished second, behind Michael Phelps, in balloting for "World Swimmer of the Year."

The Kitajima sponsorship is part of Speedo's global campaign to sponsor swimming from grass roots through to Olympic champions. In 2000 Speedo-sponsored swimmers won 28 out of 33 gold medals in Sydney.

Kitajima set his first world mark at the Busan Asian Games in 2002, where he smashed Mike Barrowman's ten-year-old world record for the 200m Breaststroke.

He later won the 2002 "Samsung Most Valuable Performance" award, given to the finest athlete of the Asian Games. At the time, Chinese head swimming coach Zhao Ge said, "Kosuke Kitajima has just set a high standard and become a role model for all the Asian male swimmers."

Kitajima said of his sponsorship deal with Speedo: "I've been looking forward to this deal because I've worn Speedo before and have always felt comfortable in it. I am very excited about racing in Speedo in Athens.

Kitajima firmly established himself as a mjor threat to the rest of the swimming world in the lead up to the 2004 Olympic Games by winning double-gold at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona, where he set world records in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. This performance led the Japanese newspaper, the Daily Yomiuri, to vote Kosuke Kitajima the "Japanese Sports Story of 2003".

The 21-year-old swims for the Tokyo Swimming Centre under the guidance of coach Narimasa Harai, and was delighted when he joined only a handful of athletes invited in November 2003 to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to meet Emperor Akihito, where he was presented with a symbolic swimming medal.

Masato Mizuno, President of the Mizuno Corporation commented, "We are very pleased as a licensee of Speedo that Kosuke Kitajima, Japan's top swimmer, has joined Speedo's elite swimmers — the first time ever for an Asian."