Tokyo, Japan: Four-time Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima will lead Japan’s charge for swimming medals at the 2012 London Olympics, Kyodo News reported from Tokyo on Monday. Kitajima, who won the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke double in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, will be appearing in his fourth consecutive Olympic Games.
In London he will be among a 27-strong Japan team, comprised of 14 women and 13 men, who qualified for the Olympics through the weeklong national championships that ended on Sunday. The team was announced on Monday, and 17 of the 27 will be appearing in their first Olympics. Kitajima, now 29, is the oldest member of the squad with 15-year-old women's breaststroke sensation Kanako Watanabe the youngest.
Takeshi Matsuda, the world silver medalist who will appear in the men's 200 freestyle and 200 butterfly, was named captain. A gold medalist will receive a sponsor's bonus of 30 million yen, said the Japan Swimming Federation, which is aiming to haul in eight medals. Japan won five medals -- Kitajima's two gold and three bronze -- at the last Olympics in Beijing.
Kitajima will attempt to become the first swimmer in Olympic history to win two gold medals in the same events at three straight competitions. The last man to try, Russian freestyler Alexander Popov, won the 50 and 100 at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games, but failed in his bid at Sydney in 2000.Source: www.english.kyodonews.jp