breaststroker Brendan Hansen, a formidable U.S. team showed off its depth at
the Pan Pacific Championships
If everyone would
cooperate, the trading of world records and international titles between U.S.
breaststroker Brendan Hansen and his Japanese rival, Kosuke Kitajima, would
make a great story line going into the Beijing Olympics. One small problem:
Hansen doesn't intend to let Kitajima, who bested him in both the 100- and
200-meter breaststrokes in Athens, beat him again. "I don't know how much
of a rivalry it's going to be," Hansen said between sessions of torching
Kitajima and all other comers in the breaststroke events at the Pan Pacific
Championships in Victoria, B.C., last week, "because I don't plan on
letting him get anywhere close to me again."
prerace jitters caused him to rush his stroke in the 100, he won the gold last
Friday in 59.90, .49 of a second ahead of Brenton Rickard of Australia, one
second ahead of Kitajima and .77 off one of the two world records he set at the
nationals in Irvine, Calif., three weeks ago. On Sunday, Hansen topped his
record-setting time in the 200, winning in 2:08.50, .24 of a second under his
previous best and 2.37 seconds ahead of Kitajima. "I did it right, and
everything clicked," Hansen said. "At the 150 I was like, See ya, I'm
wins were just two of a number of notable swims by a deep U.S. squad, which set
four other world records in Victoria. Michael Phelps broke his own
three-year-old marks in the 200 butterfly (1:53.80) and the 200 individual
medley (1:55.84). Aaron Peirsol broke his own record in the 200 backstroke in
1:54.44, a particularly impressive feat given that two months ago he strained
his right shoulder in a friendly arm-wrestling match and couldn't train with
both arms for a month. The men's 4�100-freestyle relay team of Phelps, Neil
Walker, Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak swam a time of 3:12.46, returning to the
U.S. a world record that had been held for the last six years by Australia and
then South Africa. Said Phelps, "It's going to take a lot for us to give it
shares that mentality. He traces the start of his rivalry with the 23-year-old
Kitajima to the 2003 world championships in Barcelona, at which the latter set
world records in the 100 and 200 with Hansen in the lane next to him. Inspired,
Hansen ratcheted up his training and broke both of Kitajima's records at the
2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, becoming the first American to hold both breaststroke
marks since John Hencken in 1974. But Kitajima won the two events in Athens.
His victory in the 100 was controversial; Peirsol, Hansen's former University
of Texas teammate, protested that Kitajima had used a then illegal dolphin kick
at the start, but the victory stood. "At the finish [Kitajima] let out an
unbelievable scream," recalls Hansen. "I told myself, Just soak it in.
I walked away from Athens with a huge chip on my shoulder."
At the worlds in
Montreal last year, Hansen beat Kitajima in the 100 and won another gold in the
200, an event for which Kitajima had failed to make the Japanese team. In
Victoria it was all Hansen again. "I want to put up times that make other
guys say, There's no way I can compete with that," he says.
Aside from huge
paddles that move a lot of water--he is just 6 feet but has size 131/2 feet and
hands that measure 11 inches from the base of his palm to the tip of his middle
finger--Hansen's biggest advantage over his competitors is his work ethic.
"His kick is not among the top 30," says his coach, Eddie Reese,
"but if any of those 30 swimmers worked out with him for a month, they'd go
U.S. world-record holders Peirsol, Phelps and Ian Crocker, who get pushed by
each other or other teammates, Hansen doesn't have much company at the top of
the American breaststroke heap. Instead of working out with other
breaststrokers in Austin, he tries to keep up with the backstrokers. "I
don't want to look back on anything and say, Could I have worked harder?"
he says. "I see a lot of unused talent in this world, and I don't want to
be one of those people."
Nor does he want
to see talents go undiscovered. The Havertown, Pa., native recently took up the
guitar and plans to take welding and photography classes at a community college
this fall. "I really want to try photography," he says. "I've been
to all these beautiful places, and I have nothing to show for it."