Kitajima bids to salvage career in Doha
24-year old, double olympic swimming champion, will swim in the 50, 100 and 200m in Doha.india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 18:38 IST
Double Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima will be looking to resurrect his career at the Asian Games following a dismal year in the pool.
Kitajima's future had been plunged into doubt after the Athens 100 and 200 metres breaststroke gold medallist flopped at the Japanese championships earlier in 2006.
The 24-year-old will swim the 50, 100 and 200m in Doha to sharpen his preparation for 2007 world championships in Melbourne.
But a series of injuries had taken their toll on Kitajima, whose chances of competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics looked remote after a bust-up with his coach Norimasa Hirai.
Hirai angrily accused Kitajima of lacking heart after suffering humiliating defeats in the 50 and 200m at the national championships in Tokyo.
Even victory in the 100m did little to paper over the cracks of a calamitous few days for the erstwhile golden boy of Japanese swimming.
"I was hanging over the edge of a cliff," Kitajima acknowledged after his public dressing down by Hirai. "The coach called me into his office and told me my career was in danger."
Such introspection was a far cry from the 2004 Olympic in Athens when, after twice beating fierce American rival Brendan Hansen, a pumped-up Kitajima boasted: "I kicked his butt."
The warning signs for Kitajima were there, however, after Hansen gained revenge by doing the 100-200m double at the world championships in Montreal.
Kitajima's elbows and knees have felt the strain of his brutal training regimen, forcing him to use freestyle for stamina training in order to reduce wear and tear.
"I can't remember feeling so fresh," said Kitajima, who surged to fame by winning the 100 and 200m at the 2002 Asian Games in Pusan. "I feel stronger than ever."
Kitajima's current training involves only 10 percent of breaststroke with 60 percent of his sessions using freestyle.
"When I do swim breaststroke in training it's intense," the former 100 and 200m world record holder said. "There is an extra awareness. But this way there is less stress when I practice."
Hansen may have taken Kitajima's world titles and world records from Barcelona in 2003 but Japan's Asian Games captain will be aiming to go quicker than he ever has in Qatar.
"There was a time with the injuries when he was in complete agony," Hirai said. "We're not going to say he's about to set any world records in Doha but he could put up a personal best."