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 100 metres breaststroke.
The 33-year-old, who won double gold in the 100 and 200m breaststroke at 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 59.63 seconds.
“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.”
Asia’s most decorated swimmer, Kitajima and Japan’s new kid on the block Koseki 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 Tuesday’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 melted hearts by sobbing 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 of the Rio Games, qualified fastest for the men’s 200m freestyle final in a time of 1:46.28.
Asian champion Ryosuke Irie stormed into the men’s 100m backstroke final in a quickest time of 53.31 while Kanako Watanabe, world champion in the women’s 200m breaststroke, raced into the final of the 100m in 1:07.03.
The Japanese nationals double as the country’s Olympic qualifiers.
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