The 23rd running of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon on Sunday saw overseas entries go up by nearly 20 per cent.
The Kingdom’s most popular high season charity run saw first time winners from France and Australia in the men’s and women’s sections in the absence of several previous multiple winners in Siem Reap on Sunday morning.
In a remarkable boost to Cambodian long distance running, up to 1000 local men and women were among the starters joining nearly 3000 others in the 21km run, setting a new record and sending out a clear signal that the country’s youth are set to brighten up the athletics scene, particularly the long distance challenges.
Frenchman Velentin Cuzzucoli won the men’s event while Bec Rosel of Australia dominated the women’s race. Van Pheara and Chea Samphors made it a Cambodian one-two in the men’s 10km while the honours in the women’s event went to Lyndsay Clarke of the United Kingdom.
“We were greatly encouraged by the increase in the number of overseas runners and also to see the enthusiasm among the locals grow exponentially over the years,” noted the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), Vath Chamroeun.
“Officially, in terms of registered runners, we were close to 10,500 but easily a few thousand more unregistered ones were allowed to join in.”
“I was particularly impressed by the fact that 1,000 Cambodians lined up for the 21km run. This had never happened before and it is a good sign for us.
“We switched back to the normal route but regular runners and new ones alike were not only happy but also thankful for the change,’’ he said.
“We would like to keep enhancing this unique experience of running along ancient monuments and archaeological wonders and turn this into one of the country’s greatest sports adventure tourism events in the country.
“The response in the last two to three years has been very encouraging and I hope it keeps growing,” said NOCC President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon, who sent the field on the way with a start early in the morning.
There was an unusual atmosphere in the men’s section of the 21km run this year because some of the names dominant over the years were missing from the line-up which made it an unpredictable open affair.
After the lead and forecasts kept changing it became obvious towards the end that it would boil down to the three-way contest between Valnetin Cuzzucoli of France, Daisuke Yamauchi of Japan and Chap Man Jackey of Hong Kong.
Having conserved his energy better than the other two, Cuzzucoli kicked on well towards the end to win in one hour 17 minutes and 18 seconds, pegging back the Japanese pursuer to second in 1:18.12 with Jackey a fraction late on the scene in third at 1:18.47.
The women’s event produced a comfortable winner in Bec Rosel of Australia who finished in 1:28.45 ahead of last year’s winner Nic Amhlaoibh Maire of Ireland who clocked 1:31.33, marginally ahead of Bronuym Small of South Africa.
As well as events for the disabled including a 21k wheelchair challenge, there was a 3km fun run for competitors of all ages and athletic abilities.
The winners of the day’s other categories were: Chhun Pun (men’s half marathon wheelchair); Sok Nak (women’s half marathon wheelchair); Bong Hong (men’s 10km amputee run); Chim Phan (men’s 10km amputee run); Sok Srey Chean (women’s 10km amputee run); and Nguon Ratana (women’s 10 km amputee run).