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AMERICAN Takes Gold in 200 Breastroke

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FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) _ Three weeks shy of his 20th birthday, Brendan Hansen has his first world swimming championship gold medal. He doesn't expect it will be his last.

``This is a huge stepping stone for me,'' the University of Texas student said Thursday after upstaging a glamor field to win the 200-meter breaststroke. ``All the hard work is finally paying off. It will give me a lot of confidence.''

Hansen said his biggest career thrill before Thursday was breaking American Mike Barrowman's national record in the 200-yard breaststroke in the NCAA championships this year.

He did one better on Thursday, finishing in 2 minutes, 10.69 seconds, to break the 10-year-old meet record of 2:11.23, set by Barrowman in Perth, Australia.

After trailing teammate Ed Moses until the 150-meter mark, Hansen surged ahead off the final turn and held on to beat Maxim Podoprigora of Austria by two-fifths of a second.

Kosuke Kitajima of Japan was third in 2:11.21, followed by Domenico Fioravanti, who won the 100-200 breaststroke double at the Sydney Olympics, in 2:11.31.

Moses, the Olympic silver medalist, was fifth.

``This is unbelievable,'' Hansen said. ``I knew I had a 2:10 in me. I just went into the race tonight and I didn't look around at all. I couldn't believe when I looked up that I was the winner.''

Hansen says he will set his sights on Athens for the 2004 Olympics and plans to compete over all the breaststroke distances in the leadup to the games. Before he leaves Japan, he may get a chance to help out the U.S. team on one of the remaining relays.

``This is my first medal here _ this is so cool, it hasn't hit me yet really,'' Hansen added. ``I can't believe the result yet.''

Moses said he was pleased to see a fellow American win gold.

``Everybody has their good days and their bad days, this just wasn't my day,'' Moses said. ``It could have been worse. That's the best I've felt in a last 50 since I've been here.''

Other gold medal races Thursday went predictably.

Victories by Olympic champions included Diana Mocanu of Romania in the women's 200 backstroke, Lars Frolander of Sweden in the men's 100 butterfly, and Massimiliano Rosolino in the men's 200 individual medley.

In the women's 50-meter butterfly, not previously contested at the Olympics or world championships, world record holder Inge de Bruijn won comfortably for her second gold of the meet.

De Bruijn still was well behind Australia's Ian Thorpe, who has won three individual golds, broken three world records and picked up a relay gold as well.

Thorpe lost twice to Dutch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband on Thursday, but van den Hoogenband's only reward was a chance to race the Australian again Friday for the 100-meter freestyle gold medal.

The morning after Thorpe beat van den Hoogenband by 1.75 seconds for the world championship in the 200-meter freestyle, and broke his own world record, the two were side-by-side in heats for the 100, and Van den Hoogenband beat Thorpe 48.96-49.21.

Then in the evening semifinals, side-by-side again, the Dutchman needed a meet-record 48.57 to win. Thorpe, in seventh at the halfway point, charged into second in 48.96.

American Anthony Ervin, Olympic gold medalist and world champion at 50 meters, won his semifinal in 49.43, with teammate Jason Lezak second in 49.49.
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