Monday, July 07, 2008

Kitajima to Hansen: "You soooo choked!"

What a prick, huh?

Well, actually I made that up. The L.A. Times said that Kiajima was way more polite about it. Here is what they said: "...And Kitajima, the longtime rival of Hansen, was harsh in his post-race analysis. Of Hansen's fourth-place finish, he wrote on his own official website that Hansen basically choked. The language was more polite ("for a swimmer of his level it shouldn't be that difficult to qualify"), but the message was clear.

You could practically hear Kitajima sniff from his training base in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he is doing some high-altitude training.

Suddenly, these guys are getting really interesting -- and a little testy. Hansen is vowing to do what he can to help his former understudies -- Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau -- beat Kitajima in the 200." [Link]

7 comments:

Scott said...

It was a stunner learning Hansen didn't qualify in the 200 breast. Leading going into the final fifty there wouldn't have been a soul watching who would have thought Hansen didn't have the race in the bag. Hansen himself doesn't understand why he slowed down so much; neither can his coach Eddie Reese explain it. Katajima seems to be only stating the obvious when he notes qualification should have been a relatively easy matter for someone of Hansen's talent and experience. I'd be interested in hearing your ideas on why he failed.

jc said...

I'm guessing that Kitajima's actual comments, had they been translated by someone really familiar with the Japjanese language, were in fact much more respectful. Also, as someone else pointed out on another website, a lot has been made of Kitajima's primal yells after his victories, but I never got the impression that these were directed specifically at Hansen, they were rather just espressions of exultation. Certainly plenty of Americans have done plenty of fist-pumping etc over the years, and I wonder how the rest of the world interprets those.

As far as Hansen goes, I'm guessing it's the fact that he wants it so bad that makes him vulnerable (at Trials in '00, at Athens, and in the 200 in Omaha). Sometimes, when breaststrokers try too hard, they can spin their wheels and their stroke shortens. Look at how he went a 59.2 in the semis of the 100, then could only manage a 59.9 in the finals. He seemed mystified afterward, but he may have been pushing too hard. On a slightly separate note, I've never seen a meet before where so many swimmers did their best times in heats or semis and couldn't match them in finals.

Tony Austin said...

JC, I love Japanese culture. I have studied it in a recreational way for quite some time.

Kitajima's yells would be considered by Japanese moralists as absolutely vulgar, over the top, and utterly unacceptable in any sport.

For instance, in Sumo, you never see a 'rikishi' after winning a match thump his chest, stomp around the ring, or do a chicken dance in the proverbial "end-zone" like an American would.

Instead they return to their position and bow to one another and accept the winnings handed to them by the referee in a beautifully hand-crafted envelope.

Kitajima, in my opinion, was doing all that yelling as a way to humiliate and piss off Hansen to no end and it worked. (Obviously a modified page from the Gary Hall play book.)

His blog comments, though seemingly well mannered in our society, would be considered "fighting words" in theirs. The Japanese are very polite when they insult each other. Americans clearly are not.

Hansen worked so hard and even though he was the best, and wanted it so bad and Kitjima had couched his contest as a race against Kitajima making Hansen swimming for a record instead of making the US team.

With all that said, it still does not change the fact that Kitajima cheated 2004 which really humiliated both Kitajima and the aforementioned Japanese moralists. Kitajima had to strike back. Also note, Kitajima and the Japanese still have to live with the fact that he cheated.

So, when you watch Kitajima swim the 200 breast scream at your TV UWAKIMONO! UWAKIMONO! UWAKIMONO!

(Translation - Cheater, cheater, cheater!

Scott said...

Very illuminating comment Tony, though I wonder if the nuances of Katajima's actions wouldn't be lost on a gaijin such as Hansen. Help me out on Katajima cheating at Athens: I seem to recall it was an illegal kick. Correct?

And an appreciative pat on the back for JC. Your comment on why Hansen slowed makes sense and is valued (hopefully I can avoid that problem when it comes to my own races). If JC's observation many swam their best time in prelims or semis is correct I can only hope someone else will do a more detailed analysis of the phenomenon so I can understand it better.

jc said...

Tony --
I'm going to pull rank a little bit here. I'm half-Japanese, my mother's from Japan, and I grew up there for three years when I was young. (So maybe I'm a little biased.) Anyway, I know a little about the culture too, and you can't compare a traditional sport like sumo -- which is a very, very traditional sport governed by very strict rules of conduct -- to a sport like swimming, which is basically a Western import. Yes, in most Japanese sports the athletes bow to each other after a match, in fact people bow to each other all the time in all sorts of contexts, but I suspect that when it comes to swimming at the Olympics there is a certain "When in Rome..." attitude. The Japanese have been watching Americans pump their fists and jump out of the water and raise their index finger in a "We're number one" gesture for as long as they can remember. So...in another context, Kitajima's behavior might be considered unforgiveably rude, yes, but I doubt that they blamed him for the yell. If the Japanese really considered his yelling after winning at the Olympics so rude, I don't think he'd be such a big star back there. My own inclination is to forgive anyone who exults after such a moment.

As far as Hansen trying to get his 200 record back, I can't exactly blame Kitajima for that, either. Hansen is a seasoned competitor who is in control of his own race.

As far as that dolphin kick went, you're absolutely right, there's no question he cheated. (I probably won't yell at my TV, but I certainly don't disagree with you there.)

Tony Austin said...

Hi Scott, I called Clay Evans and asked him for you because my answer was speculation and he said laconically, Hansen had a bad and tough competition. As for me, there he was wearing a LZR and obviously over motivated for he's sponsored by Nike and he wore Speedo for a hugely important race.

Clay sent me a letter about pacing and I am going to forward it to you then post it later.

Tony Austin said...

JC - 'Japan Today' called Hansen's swim a "flop!" Here is the headline: "Swimmer Kitajima surprised at rival Hansen's flop"

I love hooting if it is real and not arrogant. The French love displays of emotion and pain since they are so "poker-faced" all day long. I heard one French girl say that she loved American's because; (And she was laughing as she said it), they smile for no reason like it was silly!

Here is his quote: "I had a feeling that he might not win but never thought he would fail to make the team (for Beijing)"

That's strong language for Japan I think.

And, "It shouldn’t have been so difficult for a swimmer of his (Hansen’s) caliber to make the Olympic team."

Here is a short URL to the article:
http://www.japantoday.com/search/kitajima

As for "hooting" like the Americans: Take a look at baseball in Japan. Ties are summarily acceptable at the 12 inning mark. In fact, they are preferably to the fans if they tie. Reference is Japanorama:
http://www.japanorama.com/baseball.html

I think the rest of the world sees us as "proud mouths."