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M200 Breast: Gyurta Knockout Over Kitajima

Jul 29, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 6 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Men's 200m breaststroke

Daniel Gyurta (HUN) retained the crown by overhauling Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) in the closing 10m of the race, for a 2:08.41 to 2:08.63 victory, the bronze going to Christian Vom Lehn (GER) in 2:09.06. 

Kitajima had swum the first three laps under world record pace and looked strong until half-way home down the last of the four laps before his efforts took a toll and Gyurta, the quarry in his sights, smelled blood.   

Off the wall out of the first turn, Kitajima, Olympic champion in 2004 and 2008 and now based with Dave Salo in California, pressed on to a 1:01.40 split at half-way, 0.11sec inside the world-record pace set by Aussie Christian Sprenger in semis at Rome. At that stage, Gyurta, Olympic silver medallist at 15 in 2004 and world champion two years ago at a time when Kitajima was taking a break from racing, was 0.48sec back in fourth. Giedrius Titenis (LTU) and Michael Jamieson (GBR) raced in the middle of the two, while 19-year-old Vom Lehn back was back in sixth 1.12sec behind the leader.

Down the third lap, Kitajima maintained strength and status but his drive towards a 1:34.22 turn for home was matched by the Hungarian defender known for his ability to bounce back at the end of battle and still 0.49sec away.

Half-way home, Kitajima looked as though he might pull off another victory to add to his treasury, the 2003 and 2007 world titles already part of his collection. Gyurta had other plans and reserves aplenty: sensing blood about 15m out, the Hungarian drew level with the king and, as Kitajima's stroke failed him, surged to the wall to keep the crown on his head.

If Gyurta's last lap of 33.70 compared to a 34.41 for Kitajima, then young Vom Lehn is one they should both keep a wary eye on: 33.36, the best in the race, with more to come from the first, and only other, German to win a medal over 200m breaststroke since Walter Kusch took bronze for the Federal Republic back in 1978. 

On finally being able to cause king frog to croak, Gyurta said: "It's probably the biggest day of my life because ever since I started taking part in the world championships in 2003, I've tried to catch (Kitajima) and now I've succeeded. Most of the time in my training, I practice the final 50 metres, how to push it hard. I'm really happy I managed to implement it for this race."

The result: 

  • 1. Daniel Gyurta (HUN) 2:08.41
  • 2. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 2:08.63
  • 3. Christian vom Lehn (GER) 2:09.06
  • 4. Eric Shanteau (USA) 2:09.28
  • 5. Michael Jamieson (GBR) 2:10.67
  • 6. Giedrius Titenis (LTU) 2:11.07
  • 7. Choi Kyu-Woong (KOR) 2:11.17
  • 8. Andrew Willis (GBR) 2:11.29

Splits compared:

  • 2009: 28.91; 1:01.51; 1:34.59; 2:07.31 Christian Sprenger (AUS) Rome July 30, 2009
  • 2011: 29.12; 1:01.56; 1:34.49; 2:08.25 Tomita Naoya (JPN) April 11, 2011
  • 2011: 29.02; 1:01.98; 1:34.71; 2:08.41 Daniel Gyurta (HUN) July 29, Shanghai 2011

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 2:07.31 Christian Sprenger (AUS) Rome July 30, 2009
  • WR (textile):   2:08.25 Tomita Naoya (JPN) April 11, 2011
  • First man inside 2:12: Mike Barrowman (USA) 2:11.53 Seattle July 20, 1990
  • First man inside 2:11: Mike Barrowman (USA) 2:10.60 Fort Lauderdale, August 13, 1991
  • First man inside 2:10: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 2:09.97 Busan, October 2, 2002 
  • First man inside 2:09: Brendan Hansen (USA) 2:08.74 Irvine, August 5, 2006

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: David Wilkie (GBR); Victor Davis (CAN); Mike Barrowman (USA); Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)
  • Title retained: Wilkie (Brendan Hansen, USA, and Kitajima won twice each but did not retain the crown)
  • Biggest margin: Wilkie beat Rick Colella (USA) by 3.37sec in 1975
  • Closest shave: Daniel Gyurta (HUN) beat Eric Shanteau (USA) by 0.01sec in Rome 2009

From the archive:

A stern letter once arrived at Aberdeen City Council in Scotland complaining that one lane of Bon Accord Baths had been set aside for training. It read: “It is a disgrace that we have to be kept one side of a rope when on the other side with a lane to himself is a boy who is obviously wasting his time,” an angry doctor ranted from the public lanes. That boy turned out to be David Wilkie, 1973 and 1975 world champion, 1976 Olympic champion as the only non-American winner among men that year and the first swimmer to wear cap and goggles in racing.

In 2007, the world crown was won in 2:09.80 and by the dawn of 2008, three men had joined the sub-2:10 club. Two years later, as FINA banned non-textile suits, that club had grown to 30 members, among whom 18 had cracked 2:08 and 6 had broken 2:08. The pioneering 2:10.16 world record of Mike Barrowman (USA) from 1992, still 4th best ever at the dawn of 2008, now stands at 32nd all-time but the clock has been rolled back by a return to textile suits. At Rome 2009 world titles, the crown went to Daniel Gyurta in 2:07.64.