Kitajima misses Rio cut for pet event

Four-time Olympics gold medallist Kosuke Kitajima, nicknamed the "Frog King" in Japan for his swift strokes, missed the qualifying mark for the 100m breaststroke in Rio. He is hoping to make up for it in the 200m event.
Four-time Olympics gold medallist Kosuke Kitajima, nicknamed the "Frog King" in Japan for his swift strokes, missed the qualifying mark for the 100m breaststroke in Rio. He is hoping to make up for it in the 200m event. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Japan swim king Kosuke Kitajima was furious at himself yesterday after failing in his bid to qualify for this summer's Rio Olympics in the men's 100m breaststroke.

The 33-year-old, who won double golds in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at both the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games, had been expected to qualify for his fifth Olympics.

But Kitajima cut a forlorn figure after losing his battle with Yasuhiro Koseki at the Japanese championships as both missed out on the qualifying mark of 59.63sec.

"I'm speechless," a dejected Kitajima told reporters after clocking 59.93 in the Tokyo final, a day after dipping under the Rio standard in the semi-finals.

"It's just so upsetting I couldn't swim my usual race. I was thinking too much and swam a negative race.

"It's my own problem, I'm gutted. I need to go and cool my head and come back ready for the 200."

Kitajima, Asia's most decorated swimmer, and Koseki, Japan's new kid on the block, will look to bounce back in the 200m on Friday.

"Now I have to throw everything I have into the 200," added Kitajima.

"I guess I don't have to be so concerned about the pace in the 200. Hopefully I will be properly up for that and swim more relaxed."

Koseki, who won yesterday's final in 59.66, was equally blunt in his assessment despite the consolation of a national title.

"I don't believe it," he said. "That was pathetic really."

The post-mortem began almost immediately as Kitajima's long-term coach Norimasa Hirai said: "He showed unusual mental weakness. I can't put my finger on what went wrong."

There were tears of joy earlier when 15-year-old schoolgirl Rikako Ikee broke down after winning the women's 100m butterfly and booked her place in Rio.

After clocking 57.71 to stun 200m world champion Natsumi Hoshi, Ikee sobbed uncontrollably during her poolside interview, completely unable to answer questions.

Japanese sensation Kosuke Hagino, already assured of a place on the blocks in the 400m medley and tipped to be one of the stars at Rio, qualified fastest for the men's 200m freestyle final in 1min 46.28sec.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Kitajima misses Rio cut for pet event'. Print Edition | Subscribe