Ja­panese duo set to chal­lenge Peaty in Tokyo

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BUDAPEST: Ko­suke Ki­ta­jima be­lieves the men’s 200 me­tres breast­stroke fi­nal will be “one of the big­gest races to watch” at the Tokyo Olympics if Bri­tain’s Adam Peaty steps up to take on a dual Ja­panese chal­lenge at the dis­tance.

Breast­stroke mas­ter Ki­ta­jima se­cured Japan’s legacy in the dis­ci­pline when he won gold in the men’s in­di­vid­ual 100 and 200m at back-to-back Olympics in 2004 and 2008.

The 34-year-old re­tired af­ter fail­ing to qual­ify for Rio but was present on Fri­day as Ya­suhiro Koseki and Ippei Watan­abe won world cham­pi­onship sil­ver and bronze re­spec­tively in the longer dis­tance.

“Once I left swim­ming and the two Ja­panese boys came up and did well, that was a source of pride for me,” Ki­ta­jima told Reuters.

“It’s the first time they medalled at an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion and great for their con­fi­dence.”

With their 200m prospects en­hanced in Budapest, the Ja­panese duo could now face one of swim­ming’s hottest tal­ents in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Peaty won 50m and 100m in­di­vid­ual gold in Budapest and hinted that he would start to fo­cus se­ri­ously on the 200m dur­ing this Olympic cy­cle, say­ing he was ready to “branch out.”

“The long term goal is Tokyo,” he told Bri­tish me­dia.

The branch­ing out could start as early as De­cem­ber when the 22-year-old Bri­ton is likely to com­pete in the Com­mon­wealth Games tri­als.

“If he does swim in the 200 then that is some­thing Ja­panese fans can look for­ward to. I don’t think we have a chance in the 100, but maybe in the 200.

“It will def­i­nitely be one of the big­gest races to watch,” Ki­ta­jima added. Reuters

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