• Kyodo News

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Kosuke Kitajima hopes to perform strongly in the upcoming world championship qualifier in Japan and encourage people in earthquake-hit areas.

“I hope to deliver a positive message to the people in northeastern Japan with the way I swim,” the two-time double Olympic breaststroke champion said Tuesday upon his arrival at Narita airport. “I hope I can lift their spirits.”

The Japan Swimming Federation was forced to cancel the April 5-10 national championships after the March 11 quake damaged Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

A makeup event is scheduled for April 9-11 in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, as the national championships were going to serve as the only qualifying event for this summer’s world championships in Shanghai.

“I was worried to death in the U.S. thinking about my country,” said Kitajima, who now lives in southern California. “The earthquake made me think I have to appreciate I can swim.

“When the country is dealing with a crisis like this, it’s important for each swimmer to give his or her best performance. I trained a lot in the U.S. I’ll try to make my efforts fruitful.”

Kitajima skipped the last world championships in Rome a year after he won both the 100 and 200 meters for the second consecutive Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

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