• Kyodo

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Japanese swimming star Kosuke Kitajima set a new national record in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke Sunday to advance to Monday’s finals at the World Swimming Championships.

The 20-year-old Japanese finished in 59.98 seconds to knock off his own previous record of 1 minute, 0.07 seconds set in the National Championships last April.

He also became the second swimmer in the world to hit the 59-second mark following Russia’s Roman Sludnov, who holds the record of 59.94.

“It was a good race, I thought I would go a little faster earlier in the race. But thanks to that, I was able to increase my speed during the latter part of the race,” Kitajima said. “Anyway, the real decisive test is tomorrow (the final).”

Kitajima held the world 200-meter breaststroke record until it was broken by another Russian, Dmitry Komornikov, last month.

In Sunday’s semifinals at the special pool of Palau Sant Jordi, Kitajima got off to a bad start and covered the first 50 meters in 28.66 — off his original target by at least 0.16.

But the feisty swimmer visibly increased speed in the last 25 meters to beat Britain’s James Gibson by a big margin of 0.49. American Ed Moses came in third.

Since Sludnov is not competing in the event, Kitajima’s chances of winning the final appear to be good — with the possibility of a new record within reach.

Elsewhere, Yuko Nakanishi set a personal best time of 59.28 in the women’s 100-meter butterfly to advance to the final.

But Junko Onishi in the same event, the third-place finisher in the 1991 Fukuoka meet, failed to advance. So did Ryo Takayasu in the men’s 50-meter butterfly and Maiko Fujino in the women’s 200-meter individual medley.

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