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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hem Bunting runs personal best, misses Olympics mark

Hem Bunting runs personal best, misses Olympics mark

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Cambodia’s long distance doyen Hem Bunting put his Kenyan high altitude training into practice on Sunday, shaving more than a minute off his personal best to finish 40th in the Senior Men’s section of the Paris Marathon.

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The 27-year-old Stung Treng native braved chilly conditions on the day and a not-iceable headwind to record a time of 2 hours, 23 minutes and 28 seconds over the 42.2 kilometre street course.

The winner, Kenya’s Stanley Biwott, clocked 2:05:11 to beat countryman Vincent Kipruto’s previous Paris mark by 36 seconds.

Hem Bunting fell short of his ultimate goal, the Olympic Standard B qualification time of 2:18, which would have earned him a berth at the London Games.

The SEA Games silver medalist had a promising half way split of 1:09:04, but luck was not on his side as, according to his Kenya training partner and female Cambodian race participant Ly Nary, he suffered a blister at 30 kilometres, then stomach problems three kilometres later, forcing a toilet break that cost him nearly a minute and a half.

Ly Nary failed to improve on her best time, set at the same race last year, by crossing the finish line on Avenue Foch in 3:04:34.

Nary came home 11th out of 2,231 runners in her Veteran Women’s category, compared to her 26th placing last year.

Ethiopian Tirfi Beyene triumphed in the women’s run in a Paris record of two hours 21 minutes 39 seconds.  

Japanese comic runs at odds

Meanwhile in Japan, a media storm has been brewing over the controversy surrounding Takizaki Kuniaki’s bid to run in the London Olympics marathon.

The Japanese born professional comedian, who goes by the stage name Neko Hiroshi, is pursuing one of four wildcard entries to the Games granted to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.

While Kuniaki has garnered favour with the NOCC through his significant contributions to help promote athletics in the Kingdom, including sponsoring the Phnom Penh Half Marathon, his move for change of nationality has incensed many in Japan.

Some have contacted the world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, in an attempt to highlight the runner’s activities.   

The IAAF then wrote to the Cambodian federation to enquire about Kuniaki’s status, with the International Olympic Committee’s Regulations Committee also expressing interest in the case.

According to IAAF regulations, any athlete seeking change of nationality must wait a minimum of three years from when he or she last represented their original country.

An exemption can be requested for this to be reduced to 12 months through application to the IAAF.

With Kuniaki obtaining Cambodian citizenship a little over six months ago, and nine months before London, Japanese journalists questioned his eligibility.

However, the NOCC has clarified the situation with both the IOC and IAAF by noting that the runner has never represented Japan, a fact confirmed by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, and began running in Cambodia in 2010.

The NOCC is currently awaiting further correspondence from the IAAF.

Hem Bunting beat second placed Takizaki Kuniaki by more than five minutes in last year’s Phnom Penh Half Marathon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at dan.riley@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from REUTERS

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