Monday, June 17, 2013

Bunting Over Neko at Phnom Penh International Half Marathon

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Phnom Penh International Half Marathon took place June 16 in the Cambodian capitol of Phnom Penh.  Having taken Cambodian citizenship in 2011 in a bid to make the London Olympics, Japanese-born comedian Hiroshi Neko, (born Kuniaki Takizaki), 35, ran the half marathon but was beaten by his rival, the native-born Hem Bunting, 27.  Bunting, the Cambodian marathon national record holder and a Beijing Olympian, won in 1:15:34. Neko, 2nd in 1:17:04, said post-race, "I couldn't keep me speed up in the second half the way I expected."

Neko became a Cambodian citizen in October, 2011 and was selected for the Cambodian Olympic team in the marathon in March last year.  However, citing factors including that Neko had not fulfilled the minimum one-year waiting period following his transfer of citizenship, the IAAF ruled that he was not elligible to run.  In addition to the problems with Neko's transfer of citizenship, the question of why the top domestic-born marathoner, Bunting, was not selected for the Olympic team raised serious issues.

This year marked the third running of the Phnom Penh International Half Marathon.  In addition to the half marathon distance, the event featured 10 km and 3 km division. Including Japanese runners, a total of over 4000 men and women took part.

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