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URGENT: Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima beat his American rival Brendan Hansen to win the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke final at the Athens Olympics early Monday, Japan time.

Kitajima clocked 1 minute, 0.08 second at Olympic Aquatic Center to finish 0.17 second ahead of Hansen. France’s Hugues Duboscq took the bronze medal.

News photoKosuke Kitajima turns in a gold medal performance in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke final at the Athens Olympics, beating American rival Brendan Hansen by 0.17 second. Kitajima clocked 1 minute, 0.08 second at Olympic Aquatic Center.

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima and his American rival Brendan Hansen both topped the races of the men’s 100-meter breaststroke semifinals Saturday to cruise into Sunday’s final race at the Athens Olympics.

Kitajima clocked 1 minute, 0.27 seconds at Olympic Aquatic Center in the second semifinal, just after world record holder Hansen shaved 0.02 seconds off Kitajima’s barely dry Games record, set earlier in the day, to win the other semi in 1:00.01.

“I did well in the first half but I think I rushed myself in the latter half and lost my rhythm,” Kitajima said.

“The key tomorrow will be how much I can hang on toward the end. It won’t be about the time, it will be about winning or losing,” he said of what is anticipated to be a duel between him and Hansen, who broke Kitajima’s world records in the 100 and 200 last month.

In the men’s 400-meter individual medley final, national record holder Jiro Miki finished seventh out of eight in 4:19.97 in the race won by Michael Phelps of the United States in a world record time of 4:08.26.

Miki, who qualified for the final with the fourth best time in the heats, was bidding to become the first Japanese ever to win an Olympic medal in the event but could not keep pace with the world’s leading swimmers, taking about 3 seconds more than his qualifying time to complete the distance.

In the men’s 400-meter freestyle final, Takeshi Matsuda, the first Japanese swimmer to reach the event’s final at the Olympics since Tsuyoshi Yamanaka took sixth at the 1964 Tokyo Games, finished eighth with a disappointing time of 3:48.96.

“I couldn’t give my best. It’s frustrating,” said Matsuda, who still has the 200-meter butterfly — his favorite race — to compete in. “But it felt good swimming and taking in the atmosphere of a final.”

In Japanese women’s action, Junko Nakanishi secured a spot in Sunday’s final of the 100-meter butterfly by finishing eighth overall in the semifinals with a time of 59.24 seconds. Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands clocked the best qualifying time of 57.50.

Yuko Nakanashi could not qualify for the eight-woman final after finishing 13th despite earning a lucky ticket to the semis when German swimmer Franziska van Almsick withdrew.

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