Analysis: Men's 200m Breaststroke
Craig Lord
Watch the underwater work of King Frog. A lesson in metronomic focus with a twist. The greatest breaststroke specialist in history makes his every stroke look like a mirror of the previous perfect shot forward

Beijing 2008:

  • 1. Kosuke Kitajima (AUS) 2:07.64 or
  • 2. Brenton Rickard (AUS) 2:08.88
  • 3. Hugues Duboscq (FRA) 2:08.94
  • Fastest field: Beijing 2008: 2:07.64 - 2:11.48 (semi-final top 8: 2:08.67 - 2:09.97)

Comparison fields:

  • Melbourne 2007: 2:10.13 - 2:15.28
  • Athens 2004: 2:09.44or - 2:11.95 (7th, 8th was a DQ)
  • It took 2:09.97 to qualify for the Beijing final; 2:12.44 in Melbourne 2007; 2:12.22 in Athens 2004

Facts going into the race:

  • 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

Impact of morning finals:

Three of the all-time fastest swim are from the heats in Beijing, and two others from the semi-finals in Beijing. The final also altered the all-time list in two other cases. Only three times from the best 10 ever come from beyond the Water Cube. What it took to make the semis:

  • Beijing 2008: 2:08.68 - 2:11.19
  • Melbourne 2007: 2:11.07 - 2:14.03
  • Athens 2004: 2:11.29 - 2:14.68

Notes from the race:

Watch the underwater work of King Frog. A lesson in metronomic focus with a twist. On his way to becoming the greatest breaststroke swimmer in history by retaining the 200m crown, Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) makes his every stroke, his every movement look like a mirror of the previous perfect shot forward with hardly a hint of any dead zone (Leisel Jones shares similar mastery of her stroke). Underwater camera work shows that Kitajima also like to take a quick peripheral peek at his rivals going in and coming out of turns. Rickard swam a terrific race too, as did Duboscq, and while they were close to the champion, there was never a moment over the second 100m when it looked as though the titleholder risked losing his crown. There were only two splits in the entire race faster than Kitajima's: he came home in 33.59, to 33.32 for Daniel Gyurta, the Hungarian who was only 0.03sec slower than Kitajima on the third length, for a faster back 100m. But the Hungarian left it far too late and missed the podium, finishing fifth behind Mike Brown (CAN), who was fourth at every turn and fourth at the end an agonising 0.09sec from the podium. Gyurta, on 2:09.22 will forever look at the result sheet and wonder at a 2:08.68 from the heats - third fastest ever.

Kitajima  said: "I wasn't thinking about winning two gold medals at the two consecutive Olympic Games. What I wanted to do is show my best performance here in Beijing. I'm so relieved. I'm glad that I won this race. I was going to improve my time a bit more but to win this race is more important than to set a good time. For the last 50m I was slower than I thought, but all in all I think I had a good race. I thought I could set 2:06, but I guess I was being greedy. Compared to the 100m race, I think I was more calm today," he said. "I was so calm that I think I could have seen each face in this venue. I enjoyed my race." It took 2:09 plus to qualify for the final. On swimming sub-2:10, Rickard said: "It was a pretty special thing to do, I have joined a select group. I guess the most important thing is that I did it in the final, when it mattered most."

Impact on all-time top 10


  • 2:07.51 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN
  • 2:08.50 Hansen, Brendan USA
  • 2:08.68 Gyurta, Daniel HUN BEIJING H
  • 2:08.84 Brown, Michael CAN BEIJING S
  • 2:08.88 Rickard, Brenton AUS BEIJING F
  • 2:08.94 Duboscq, Hugues FRA BEIJING F
  • 2:08.98 Bossini, Paolo ITA BEIJING H
  • 2:09.08 Spann, Scott W. USA BEIJING S
  • 2:09.12 Facci, Loris ITA BEIJING H
  • 2:09.52 Komornikov, Dimitri 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



In winning, Kitajima made Japn the most successful nation at this event, with six gold medals since 1908. Americans have won 14 medals overall in that time and five titles, while Japan has won 11 medals. Before Kitajima, the crown has been kept just once in history: Yoshiyuki Tsuruta (JPN), in 1928 and 1932. After him came Tetsuo Hamuro (1936); Furukawa (in that controversial 1956 final); and now Kitajima twice (2004, 2008). 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. 

Fastest: 2:07.64, Kitajima (2008).

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)