• Kyodo

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Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima cruised to his fifth straight victory in the men’s 50-meter breaststroke while Ai Shibata won her third title at the national swimming championships on Saturday.

Athens double gold medalist Kitajima, who suffered a shock defeat to finish in third in the 200 breaststroke two days earlier, touched the wall in 28.03 seconds to finish ahead of runnerup Takehiko Mizuta in 28.67 at Yokohama International Swimming Pool. Genki Imamura came third in 28.79.

“I think I took the national championships for granted. It’s too bad I can’t compete in the 200 at the worlds but I’ll just have to do my best to appear in the 50 and 100 breaststroke,” said Kitajima, who led the field from start to finish.

Freestyle swimmer Shibata, surprise gold medalist in the women’s 800 meters in Athens, claimed her first victory in the event at the nationals in a time of 8:32.64 after also winning the 200 and 400 meters women’s freestyle events.

“Before Sachiko Yamada would always be leagues ahead of everyone and I would just hope for second. But I gained confidence after getting the gold medal (in Athens), so I’m no longer afraid to go all out in a race,” said Shibata.

Sachiko Yamada, who was aiming for her eighth straight victory, came second in 8:35.09, failing to meet the qualifying standard set by the Japan Swimming Federation to book a berth for the world championships to be held in Montreal in July.

Elsewhere, Tomomi Morita timed 25.61 to set a national record in the men’s 50-meter backstroke in winning his second straight title while Takeshi Matsuda topped the field in the men’s 400 freestyle in 3:48.93. Second place went to high school student Sho Uchida, who clocked a new school record of 3:51.11.

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