Runners including Cambodia’s Hem Bunting (C) begin the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, Sunday, Dec. 02, 2012. Photograph: Chris Derbuc/Phnom Penh Post
Australian athlete Joji Mori drew inspiration from decorated Cambodian long-distance runner Hem Bunting to triumph in yesterday’s Angkor Wat International Half Marathon in Siem Reap.
Having met and trained with the SEA Games silver medallist earlier in the week, Mori revealed his utmost respect for the Stung Treng native, who won the event two years ago.
“I knew from the times that he [Hem Bunting] ran this year, that he would probably be the strongest runner in this year’s field. So my tactic was to hold up with him as long as I could,” Mori told the Post after the 21-kilometre race yesterday around the historic temple complex.
“Unfortunately after kilometre seven, Hem [Bunting]’s hip started to hurt and he couldn’t keep up with me anymore. From this point, I led the field until the finish line.”
Miro competed in his first Angkor Wat International half Marathon in 2005 where he finished 16th, awaking in him a strong passion for running he has held ever since. After some fun runs and half marathons in his hometown of Melbourne, Miro returned to Siem Reap for his biggest success so far, finishing the course in 1 hour 14 minutes and 15 seconds.
Three minutes later, Germany’s Tolger Arnold crossed the finish line, with Cambodian Ma Viro, who won a road race in Pursat and a half marathon in Sihanoukville this year, coming home in third a further three minutes back.
According to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun, the 17th edition of the event featured over 6,300 participants hailing from over 67 countries including 2,150 runners from the Kingdom.
In a number of disabled races held on the day, local runners took the majority of podium places.
The 10km Artificial Arms men’s race was won by Sun Sam and Narng Sreyroth in the women’s category.
Srey Vouchngea clinched the women’s 10km Artificial Leg title, while Nhork Kimbor took top honours in the men’s event. In a widely expected result, 22-year-old racer Van Vun came in first in the half marathon for wheelchair athletes.
The second main event of the day, the 21km women’s race, saw defending champion Jenny Lundgren from Sweden beat all others once again with a near identical time to last year of 1:25:44.
Indonesia’s Unik Setyorin crossed the line in second just under five minutes behind, with Nadia Stawyskyj of Australia taking the bronze moments later.
Japanese NGO Hearts of Gold, who launched the annual competition in 1996 as a way to support survivors of landmines in Cambodia, organised the races in cooperation with the NOCC and the Khmer Amateur Athletics Federation.
NOCC President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon was guest of honor and presided over both the opening and closing ceremonies yesterday as well as hosting a gala dinner on Saturday for representatives of the local government and NGOs.
“Cambodia – the Kingdom of Wonder – has reached international attention through Angkor Wat and its annual half marathon. We became a country that can hold and host international sport events and tourist from all over the world,” Thong Khon said during his address.
Vath Chamrouen, meanwhile, told the Post that they hoped the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon would grow over the years.
“I expect in three to five years numbers of participation that will exceed 10,000 and can compete with similar events in Europe. We are happy about the great annual organisation of this event through Hearts of Gold. Thank them and our sponsors for years of successful charity in Cambodia,” said the Secretary.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Derbuc at [email protected]