Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Top 20 Swimmers of the 2000s - No.5 - Kosuke Kitajima

Performance 2000-2009

Olympics - 4 Gold
Worlds - 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
WRs - 100 Breast (2003-2004) (2008-2009), 200 Breast (2002-2003) (2003-2004) (2008-2009)
World Swimmer of the Year - None

Rounding out the Top 5 is the Japanese Breaststroke superstar Kosuke Kitajima. Kitajima may not have been the most obvious choice for 5th spot but he merits this position due to his incredible dominance on swimming's greatest stage, the Olympic Games. He became the first man to ever win the 100m and 200m Breast at back-to-back Olympics. Only Domenico Fiorvanti had ever won both Breaststroke events in a single Olympics before. Interestingly Kitajima qualified for the final fastest only once in those 4 Gold medal events. (2008, 200m Breast). He also appeared in the 2000 Olympics finishing 4th in the 100m Breast 2 days before his 18th birthday.

A star in his native Japan he has had to deal with huge expectations on his shoulders. A testament to his influence in Japan came in the run-up to Beijing where he announced that he would wear a Speedo LZR, despite the Japanese Swimming Federation being under contract with sponsor Mizuno. As a result of Kitajima's demands, he and his teammates were able to level the suit playing field to the rest of the world.

Kitajima had a great rivalry with Brendan Hansen throughout the last decade. This served to bring both men, and male breaststroke, even more attention. Despite Hansen winning more World Championship Golds and holding the Breaststroke WRs for longer, Kitajima will go down as the greatest breaststroker in history due to his ability to rise to the occasion at the Olympics.

Enjoy Kitijima's 100m Breast final from Beijing. Stunning turn and second 50m.

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