Hansen heads to London with new approach
No matter how hard he tries, American Brendan Hansen just cannot seem to get away from Japanese breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima.
The pair have been rivals in the pool for a decade, trading world records, world titles - and occasionally insults.
Both have had their moments of success but in the Olympic pool, where the glory is greatest and the pressure almost suffocating, Kitajima has ruled supreme.
"This is my third time and it doesn't get any easier," Hansen said after winning the 100m final at the US Olympic trials on Tuesday.
"I've learned over the last two Olympics that you don't have to move mountains to win a gold medal, you just got to put your hand on the wall first.
"We have got to figure out what I need to do the next three weeks and be 100 percent behind it because I want to touch the wall first from here on out."
While Hansen has earned two gold medals from medley relays, Kitajima has four individual golds, winning the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke finals at Athens in 2004 and again in Beijing in 2008.
For Hansen, who has been Kitajima's life long rival, it was an unpalatable concept that led him to quit swimming after Beijing.
But with the London Olympics approaching he had a sudden change of heart and decided to make a comeback, determined to end his run of close-shaves and win his first individual gold.
He returned to training with renewed vigor and a fresh approach and on Tuesday he took the first major step to realising his unfulfilled dream when he booked his place on the team to London on Tuesday.
"As athletes, we put the Olympics on the highest pedestal, because it's the highest stage we could get to so when we finally get there, we think we have to do these amazing, heroic things," Hansen said.
"I kinda learned that lesson the hard way, because in '04 I was so stressed out about it, and in '08 I didn't want to do it. Now I think maybe I'll figure it out, who knows."
As the crowds roared his name, Hansen knew there was one person in the crowd paying special attention to his every stroke. Kitajima, who trains in California, was watching events unfold from the grandstand.
"I saw him the second day I was here. I went over to him and made it as awkward as I possibly could, gave him a big ol' hug," Hansen said.
"We have always had a very good relationship.
"It's cool for him to see me swim because at the end of the day when he gets on the blocks, he has to know that the only guy that's beaten him in the last 10 years is me."