Two-time double Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima says Japan's emotional victory in the women's soccer World Cup has pumped him up for the world swimming championships in Shanghai.
"The victory has cheered Japan up," he told Japanese media during training in Tokyo on Tuesday as the women's soccer squad returned home to a hero's welcome in the country recovering from the March quake-tsunami disaster.
"It has also made me feel like working hard. I want to swim in a way to bring courage from Shanghai to Japan," said the 28-year-old, who skipped the world championships in 2009 in Rome.
"I'm thrilled because I've been away (from the worlds) for some time. I want to prove I can still fight."
The team, nicknamed Nadeshiko, or a frilly pink flower seen in Japan as a symbol of feminine beauty and elegance, displayed superb teamwork and perseverance to beat the United States on penalties in the World Cup final.
Ranked fourth in the world, Nadeshiko earlier upset hosts and holders Germany and Sweden on their way to seal the first World Cup title for Asia.
Speed swimming events at the worlds in Shanghai start on Sunday with Kitajima due to compete in the men's 100m and 200m breaststroke.
Kitajima was hailed as "Frog King" when he retained the 100m and 200m titles at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
But he has a point to prove. At the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year, the red-hot favorite finished only fourth in the 50m and 100m before he pulled out of the 200m citing nagging pain in his shoulder and joints.© Agence France-Presse