BUDAPEST • Kosuke Kitajima believes the men's 200m breaststroke final will be "one of the biggest races to watch" at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if Britain's Adam Peaty steps up to take on a dual Japanese challenge at the distance.
Breaststroke master Kitajima, 34, secured Japan's legacy in the discipline when he won gold in the men's individual 100m and 200m at back-to-back Olympics in 2004 and 2008.
He retired after failing to qualify for the Rio Games, but was present on Friday as Yasuhiro Koseki and Ippei Watanabe won World Championships silver and bronze respectively.
"Once I left swimming and the two Japanese boys came up and did well, that was a source of pride for me," Kitajima said. "It's the first time they medalled at an international competition and it is great for their confidence. It makes me happy and for me, it's really about what the actual time will be when Tokyo comes."
With their 200m prospects enhanced in Budapest, the Japanese duo could now face one of swimming's hottest talents in the run-up to the Tokyo Games.
Peaty won 50m and 100m individual golds in Budapest, and hinted that he would start to focus seriously on the 200m during this Olympic cycle, saying he was ready to "branch out".
"The long-term goal is Tokyo," he told British media. "I don't want to jeopardise anything, but I don't think it will be too hard."
The branching out could start as early as December when the 22-year-old is likely to compete in the Commonwealth Games trials.
"When I saw Adam do the 50m and 100m, it was incredible. If he does swim in the 200m, that is something Japanese fans can look forward to. It will be one of the biggest races to watch," Kitajima said.