Beijing Form Guide: Men's Breaststroke
Craig Lord
Countdown to 08/08/08: SwimNews continues its preview to the Games with a look at how the seascape has changed in the past year, who is still in the race, who is out and where the medals are likely to go. Today: Men's Breaststroke

Precisely a year before the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, SwimNews put together a form guide for events in Beijing. It was August 2007. A year on, we continue our preview build-up to the Games in Beijing - via a few delays caused by the process of getting to and settling into the Olympic Games here in Beijing - with a look at how the seascape has changed, who is still in the race, who is out and where the medals are likely to go.

Men's Breaststroke


If there is one stroke where the impact of the bodysuit has been perceived to be less significant, it is breaststroke, though not to be overlooked are the stats below (like six of the all-time top 10 in the 100m and seven of the best ever 10 over 200m all stemming from this year, pre-Games - never before), reigning double Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima's bounce into the realms of 2:07 over 200m, and his successful campaign to have Japan crop its adherence to specific brands. Also worth a footnote: adidas claims to have made what amounts to the first stroke specific suit, the powerband element of its 2008 suit altered specifically with breaststroke specialists in mind. Here's a reminder of the world records broken at the helm of a sports-wide surge in standards since February 2008.

The Kitajima v Hansen show is only half the battle it was: the American is out of the 200m after being beaten into fourth place at US trials. Hansen still leads the way in the 100m, however, and here is the extent to which the pack is gathering:

100m: 6/10 all-time performers from 2008; 14/30 entries from 2008
200m: 7/10 all-time performers from 2008; 14/30 entries from 2008<

The burning question: Can anyone stop Kitajima, the man who let out a primordial scream of Cho-kimochi-ii (meaning 'I feel mega-good') after claiming the double in Athens 2004. The Japanese word went on to win the 2004 U-Can Neoligisms and Vogue Words contest.

And on that note, here's what's in store:




World record: 59.13 - Brendan Hansen (USA), Irvine, California, 1.8.06
Olympic champion: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 1:00.08
World champion: Hansen 59.80

The picture in August 2008

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Brendan Hansen (USA); Kosuke Kitajime (JPN); Brenton Rickard (AUS)
2 Breakers: Mark Gangloff (USA); Alex Dale Oen (NOR)
2 Bubbling Under: Valeriy Dymo (UKR); Romanos Alyfantis (GRE)
1 On The Edge: Christian Sprenger (AUS)
Don't forget: Oleg Lisogor (UKR); Mihail Alexandrov (BUL)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
59.13 Hansen, Brendan USA 2006
59.53 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN 2005
59.94 Sludnov, Roman RUS 2001
1:00.02 Mew, Darren GBR 2004
1:00.05 Duboscq, Hugues FRA 2005
1:00.06 Lisogor, Oleg UKR 2005
1:00.21 Moses, Ed USA 2003
1:00.24 Gangloff, Mark USA 2007
1:00.34 Dale Oen, Alexander NOR 2007
1:00.37 Gibson, James GBR 2003
New impact on all-time top 10: Gangloff; Dale Oen

The picture in August 2008:

There has been a sea-change in men's breaststroke this year: the club of sub-minute men has doubled from 3 to 6. But the top two are the same and have a tight but distinct advantage.
The World Top 10, 2008:
59.24 Hansen, Brendan USA 2007 59.59
59.44 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN 2007 59.74
59.76 Dale Oen, Alexander NOR 2007 1:00.34
59.78 Duboscq, Hugues FRA 2007 1:01.08
59.88 Cook, Chris GBR 2007 1:01.28
1:00.04 Rickard, Brenton AUS 2007 1:00.58
1:00.09 Sludnov, Roman RUS 2007 1:01.50
1:00.10 Gangloff, Mark USA 2007 1:00.24
1:00.15 Sprenger, Christian AUS 2007 1:00.72
1:00.39 Gibson, James GBR 2007 1:01.03
Danger just outside the top 10: in 11th at 1:00.50, 21-year-old Glenn Snyders (NZL) is a big improver, from 1:01.80 in 2007; 50m ace Oleg Lisogor (UKR) is 12th on 1:00.53. Dale-Oen, Dubosq and Cook have all joined the sub-minute club, while four men are within a fingernail.


The Battle: The Kitajima v Hansen show is still very much the theme of this race, though history shows the 100m to be among those events that throw up its fair share of upsets. Hansen noted at the US press conference in Beijing that he just has the one solo event and a shot at a relay berth on 'the greatest medley quartet the world has known'. His focus is clear and he intends to have fun. So does Kitajima, for whom the 100m will be an indicator of what we can expect later in the week in the 200m. Dale Oen, Duboscq and Cook lead the advance party of those who want to muscle in on the a no-love-lost tussle between the American world record holder and his Athens nemesis.

Most consistent: Hansen holds seven of the all-time 10 best times and Kitajima three; in 2008, Hansen has performances Nos 1 and 3 and Kitajima Nos 2, 4 and 5. No others have swum inside the minute more than once.

History: Much water under the breaststroke bridge since the first Olympic title was won by Donald McKenzie (USA) in Mexico City in 1:07.7. Just 33 years later, on June 29, 2001, 21-year-old Roman Sloudnov, from Omsk, Russia, clocked 59.97 to become the first to race inside the minute. That barrier had been broken by men on freestyle in 1922, butterfly in 1960 and backstroke in 1964, and by women on freestyle in 1962, on butterfly in 1977, while backstroke finally yielded in 2002. Come on Leisel, only five seconds to go for the set! Americans have claimed four (1968; 1976; 1984; 1992) of the ten titles, with Britain (1980; 1988) and Japan (1972; 2004) on two apiece. Nine of the 30 medals on offer since 1968 have gone to the USA, while Soviet representatives won five, three of those Russians to go alongside Sloudnov's bronze in 2000. The title has never been retained. Lundquist was among the favourites to win the 1980 title when boycott intervened. His 1:02.88 effort, ahead of Bill Barrett's 1:02.93, at US Nationals, came a week after Duncan Goodhew (GBR) won the title in Moscow in 1:03.44, a time that would have won bronze in 1976.
Lundquist hung on for 1984, winning in what was then a stunning 1:01.65. The man who finished fourth on that occasion, went on to become the only Olympic champion to make the Olympic final final four years after glory: Adrian Moorhouse (GBR), at the helm in 1988, and 8th in 1992. The event witnessed the first Olympic champions across all events for Belgium and Italy, in the respective forms of Fred Deburghgraeve, 1996, and Domenico Fioravanti (ITA). Since Roman Sloudnov (RUS) became the first swimmer to dip below the minute in the 100m, two have followed, Kitajima and Hansen but Olympic waters thirst yet for a sub-minute effort. The last two Olympic Games are the only two at which the same man has won both 100m and 200m titles: Fioravanti and Kitajima.

Fastest: 1:00.01 (semi-final): Brendan Hansen (USA), 2004; 1:00.08 (final) Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)
World Record wins: Nobutaka Taguchi (JPN), 1972; John Hencken (USA), 1976; Steve Lundquist (USA), 1984
Biggest margin: Taguchi's 1:04.94 victory, the first sub 1:05 swim, gave him the gold by 0.49sec over American Thomas Bruce.
Closest shave: The spirit of the first Olympic breaststroke champion ever, Frederick Holman (200m) was shining down on Moorhouse (GBR) on September 19, 1988: he claimed the gold in 1:02.04, 0.01sec ahead of Karoly Guttler (HUN). Moorhouse would come to know much about close margins: he set the world record at 1:01.49 in 1989 and equaled it twice in 1990.
Most controversial: Kitajima's poolside outburst in Athens had a feel of bad blood about it. After Kitajima's double win at the 2003 world championships, the talk in the American camp was that he was using an illegal dolphin kick out of turns. In Athens, the USA lodged a protest. It was rejected. Kitajima emerged from his victory to say: 'Now, they can shut up!'. Three days later, he won the 200m and emerged to say: 'That talk about the kick just motivated me all the more to stick it to them.' Hark - the Olympic spirit! Or perhaps it was the door of diplomacy slamming shut in the breeze.



World Record: 2:07.51 - Kosuke Kitajima (JPN), Tokyo, 8.6.08
Olympic champion: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 2:09.44
World champion: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 2:09.80

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Kitajima; Hansen; Rickard
3 Breakers: Eric Shanteau (USA); Daniel Gyurta (HUN); Andreas Losel (GER, 2:15.98 in 2006 to 2:11.97, April, 2007)
1 Bubbling Under: Loris Facci (ITA)
1 On The Edge: Mike Brown (CAN)
Don't forget: Paolo Bossini (ITA); Grigory Falko (RUS)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
2:08.50 Hansen, Brendan USA 2006
2:09.42 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN 2003
2:09.52 Komornikov, Dimitri RUS 2003
2:10.16 Barrowman, Mike USA 1992
2:10.32 Gilchrist, Kris GBR 2007
2:10.40 Moses, Ed USA 2001
2:10.51 Piper, Jim AUS 2006
2:10.65 Shanteau, Eric USA 2007
2:10.69 Edmond, Ian GBR 2003
2:10.71 Gyurta, Daniel HUN 2007
New impact on all-time top 10: Shanteau; Gyurta

The picture in August 2008:

a year ago, there were three men inside 2:10. Now there are eight. The pressure is on but Hansen is gone and Kitajima, 2004 champion, reigns supreme with a world record that leaves him 2sec ahead of the nearest threat.
The World Top 10, 2008:
2:07.51 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN 2007 2:09.80
2:09.51 Rickard, Brenton AUS 2007 2:10.99
2:09.60 Hansen, Brendan USA 2007 2:09.91
2:09.64 Falko, Grigori RUS 2007 2:12.05
2:09.72 Duboscq, Hugues FRA 2007 2:14.20
2:09.74 Dale Oen, Alexander NOR 2007 2:11.98
2:09.97 Spann, Scott W. USA 2007 2:13.98
2:10.17 Suenaga, Yuta JPN 2007 2:12.64
2:10.24 Shanteau, Eric USA 2007 2:10.65
2:10.33 Tateishi, Ryo JPN 2007 2:12.84

Danger just outside the top 10: plenty - 2:10.44 for Gilchrist, 2:11.01 for Mike Brown (CAN) 2:11.02 for Christian Sprenger (AUS) and 2:11.15 for the 2004 silver medallist, Daniel Gyurta (HUN), who is still a teenager.

The Battle: Kitajima is the outstanding favourite after that 2:07.51 in Tokyo in June. Hansen fell on his sword at US trials, leaving world bronze medal winner Brenton Rickard of Australia is next-quickest. Four others in the race are within 0.5sec and the semi-final in Beijing may require a time that would have won medals at previous Games.

Most consistent: Kitajima, followed by Duboscq, with three sub-2:10 efforts.

History: The crown has been kept just once in history: Tsuruta (JPN), in 1928 and 1932. After him came Tetsuo Hamuro (1936); Furukawa (in that controversial 1956 final); and Kitajima (2004). American winners were Robert Skelton (1924); Verdeur (with 'fly arms, 1948); William Muliken (1960), who took gold by improving his pre-Games best by almost 4sec; Hencken (1972); Barrowman (1992) at the helm of fastest podium seen until 2004. The standout duel was that between Wilkie (GBR) and Hencken (USA) in 1972 to 1976. Between Hencken setting a world record of 2:21.55 to win the 1972 title, with Wilkie second on 2:23.67, the rivals exchanged the global mark a further five times, Hencken the holder thrice, Wilkie twice, while the Scot ruled the World Championship waves with victories in 1973 and 1975. In Montreal, 1976, on July 20, Wilkie took silver to Hencken in the 100m, the American setting world records of 1:03.88 and 1:03.62 in heats and semis on his way to a 1:03.11 victory in the final, to Wilkie's 1:03.43. Four days later, in the 200m final, Hencken crunched his own world record by 0.95sec, to finish on 2:17.26, by which time Wilkie was already celebrating, having ended the argument in 2:15.11, 3.1sec inside Hencken's previous best. Wilkie's time would still have won a medal in 1988 and taken him into the final 20 years after a triumph that stopped a mighty USA men's team from winning every single gold medal in the pool at Montreal.
The 1968 champion, Felipe Munox, was Mexico's first (and remains its last) champion. 'Tibio' sent the home crown (and the nation) wild when he won. His nickname means tepid: his mother was from Rio Frio (cold river) and his father from Aquascalientes (hot waters), a perfect chemistry for a swimmer. The 1992 final also cheered hearts: the silver medal winner was Terence Parkin (RSA), for whom strobe lighting was used to start the race - he was born deaf but in water found a place where hearing was one of the least useful of the senses. The saddest story from the annals of the 200m is that of Victor Davis (CAN). He broke Wilkie's record at the 1982 world championships in Guayaquil, in 2:14.77 and in 1984 was a league apart aloft the Olympic podium, in 2:13.34, his 2.45sec lead over Glen Beringen (AUS) the biggest winning margin in history. Davis also took silver in the 100m, 1:01.65 to 1:01.99 behind Lundquist. They called other 'The Ultimate Animal'. On November 13, 1989, Davis was killed when he was struck by a car outside a bar following an altercation. His ashes were scattered at sea along with a quart of water from lane 5 of the University of Southern California pool in Los Angeles, where he had celebrated his finest sporting moment. In 1989, Barrowman set the first of his six world records in the same lane at UCLA.

Fastest: 2:09.44, Kitajima (2004).
World Record wins: Frederick Holman (GBR), 1908; Ian O?Brien (AUS), 1964; Hencken, 1972; Wilkie, 1976; Davis, 1984; Barrowman, 1992.
Biggest margin: Davis's 2:13.34 left him 2.45sec ahead of Glen Beringen (AUS) at the 1984 boycotted Games in Los Angeles.
Closest shave: Perkins (AUS) missed the double in 1992 by 0.16sec behind Sadovyi; in 1932, Crabb (USA) finished 0.1sec ahead of Taris (FRA)
Most controversial: No man has made a breaststroke podium at three Games - but one should have: Nick Gillingham (GBR), silver in 1988 and bronze in that sizzling top three of 1992, finished 4th in Atlanta 1996 but was elevated to bronze when Andrei Korneev (RUS) tested positive for Bromantan, a stimulant. The Russian got off on a technicality when the case went to CAS: the drug was listed as banned by FINA but not by name (but by association) on the IOC's list at the time. Korneev kept his bronze for a performance enhanced by a stimulant, one of those cases where a cheat did indeed prosper.