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Monday, 16th January 2012
In Japan Sports News,

Japan hail 17-year-old swimmer as 'next Kosuke Kitajima'

A young Japanese swimmer has been hailed as a potential gold medal winner at this year's London 2012 Olympics.

Despite being just 17-years-old and a relatively unknown prospect, Akihiro Yamaguchi has been dubbed the 'next Kosuke Kitajima', Reuters reported.

The Japanese legend took double gold medals at Athens 2004 in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke, and now Yamaguchi is being tipped to reach similar heights.

Having taken the 200 metres breaststroke world junior title, the teenager has now set his sights on the gold medal in London - and he has a serious authority in his corner.

Japanese swimming coach Norimasa Hirai, Kitajima's former mentor, is predicting the newcomer to cause an upset at this year's games in the iconic Aquatics Centre that has been built specially to host the swimming events.

"I haven't seen anything like him since Kosuke so it's exciting," Reuters quoted him as saying.

"You just never know what he could go at the Olympics."

Certainly a precocious talent, the prodigious swimmer appears to have the confidence to match and the belief that he could go all the way in London.

Despite some suggesting that the Rio de Janerio Olympics in 2016 may be a more realistic target, he is unconvinced.

"People tell me 'Good luck in Rio' but that's too long to wait," Yamaguchi told the news agency.

"I'm in a good position to challenge for the 100. I'm also going to break 2:09 in the 200."

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Yamaguchi's personal best in the 200 metres remains three seconds behind Kitajima's former world record so he has a long way to go yet.

However, despite still being at school, the young swimmer is determined to prove any doubters wrong, believing that ultimately he can propel himself into the top spot with a time under 2:08.

Written by Mark Smith