Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Beijing National Aquatics Centre, Beijing Olympic Green, Beijing
Date Started: August 9, 2008
Date Finished: August 11, 2008
|Silver:||Alexander Dale Oen|
Between the two Olympic Games of 2004 and 2008 breaststroke swimming had turned into a personal duel between the man who had won both Olympic titles in Athens, [Kosuke Kitajima] of Japan, and America's [Brendan Hansen], who had beaten Kitajima in all their recent major championship clashes.
But before the competition started Kitajima became embroiled in a swimsuit controversy. Japanese swimming federation rules allowed swimsuits made by Japanese manufacturers to be used by the national team but team members were adamant that not using the new Speedo costumes would ruin their chances in Beijing. Some, including Kitajima, threatened to break ranks and wear the American-made costumes in defiance of the rules. The Japanese federation was forced to back down and allow the swimmers to use the new high tech suits.
Kitajima signaled his intentions by breaking the world record in a warm-up meet in June and was a clear favourite for the Olympic title on arrival in Beijing. His main rival proved not to be Hansen, who was not in the same form as previous years, but instead it was European champion [Alexander Dale Oen] of Norway. The Norwegian broke the Olympic record in both his heat and semi-final but the Japanese champion responded by breaking his own world record in the final to retain the Olympic final.
Dale Oen went on to win the World title in 2011 but his life came to a tragic end in May 2012. Shortly after training at altitude in Arizona he was discovered unconscious in his apartment shower, having suffered a cardiac arrest. Efforts to revive him proved fruitless and he passed away in Flagstaff Medical Centre.