Japan's Kosuke Kitajima safely navigated the first stage of his bid to become possibly the first male swimmer to win the same event at three Olympics when he made it through the 100 breaststroke heats on Saturday. Kitajima finished second fastest overall in a time of 59.62 seconds.
He was just 0.01 the closest margin to a deadheat in swimming behind Australia s Christian Sprenger who was in the same heat.The event however was tinged with sadness because of the death of world champion Alexander Dale Oen in April.
Norway s Dale Oen who won the world title in Shanghai last year three days after a bombing and shooting attack in Oslo that killed 77 people had been at a training camp in Arizona when he collapsed and died.A medical examiner ruled the 26-year-old had died of severe coronary artery disease and his compatriot Sara Nordenstam said his absence was felt in their team and at the pool.
"I know a lot of his competitors will think of him. Cameron (van der Burgh) from South Africa has dedicated his swim to Alex" Nordenstam said before the 100 breaststroke heats."Kitajima says he wishes he could compete with Alex.
Something is missing when he is not here."Van der Burgh qualified sixth fastest in 59.79 with the first 12 swimmers all finishing in under a minute.
Kitajima won the 100-200m breaststroke double at each of the past two Olympics and could become the first man to win the same event three times.The only other swimmer who could beat him for the feat is Michael Phelps who is competing in four different events that he won at the past two Olympics."I don t feel pressure I just try to enjoy it " Kitajima said. "I can swim at a very high level so I ll try to improve in the semi-final."