Sat, Jul 26, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Japan celebrates record-breaking triple-medal haul

AP , BARCELONA

Japan's Kosuke Kitajima recieves the gold medal in the 200m breaststroke in Barcelona on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Japan made history on Thursday winning three medals in one day at the World Swimming Champion-ships, including a gold that came with a world record from Kosuke Kitajima in the men's 200m breaststroke.

"This is a historic day for Japanese swimming," said team manager Tsuyoshi Aoki.

The Japanese team, through five of eight days of swimming, has two golds, one silver and two bronze.

In the emotion, Kitajima's coach Norimasa Hirai whipped up dozens of Japanese reporters to begin the victory chant of "Banzai! Banzai!" after the race.

Besides Kitajima's gold, Japan also took bronze in the 200m butterfly from Yuko Nakanishi and bronze in the 50m backstroke with Noriko Inada.

But Kitajima was the hero.

This was his second gold of the championships and his second world record to boot.

"I'm really happy to break two world records and win two golds. That was my goal," said the 21-year-old from Tokyo. "I knew I could win as soon as I stepped onto the starting block."

On Monday, Kitajima smashed the world record for the men's 100m breaststroke, hitting 59.78 seconds to break the previous record of 59.94 held by Russia's Roman Sloudnov.

He then warned: "I'm hoping to get a record of 2 minutes, 8 seconds." in the 200m.

On Thursday he clocked 2:09.42 seconds. He had held the record earlier this year until Dmitri Komornikov of Russia broke it with 2:09.52 on June 14 -- also in Barcelona.

"When Korminikov did that it really motivated me," said Kitajima. "I want to improve further to win the next Olympics in both events. Next year is the real contest."

Japan has a history of producing fine breaststroke swimmers, principally because it is a discipline which relies heavily on technique rather than stature and physique, analysts say.

It last won an Olympic men's swim gold in the 1972 Olympics with Nobutaka Taguchi. It won a women's gold in the 200m breaststroke in 1992, also in Barcelona, with Kyoko Iwasaki.

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