The Kingdom of Wonder entered the adventurous world of ultramarathons last week with the first ever 128km trail through UNESCO recognised Angkor Wat archaeological complex, putting human emotions through the toughest of endurance tests the likes of which had never been tried before in the country.
At the end of two gruelling days of competition, Hiam Lim Soh of Malaysia took the top honours in 18 hours 34 minutes and 56 seconds ahead of Porter Andrew (18:38.31) of South Africa and Clement Julian (19:28.07) of France.
But from the Cambodian perspective, the greatest achievement was recorded by a Japanese business magnate and well-known sports benefactor Mitsuji Konoshita, who is also a Cambodian citizen. The chairman of the country’s leading hire purchase and motor finance company, GLF, proudly competed as a Cambodian and finished fourth (20 hours 39.55 minutes) in the elite men’s group but was the undisputed winner of the event in his own senior category, giving him the honour of being not only the first from the Kingdom to take part but also pick up a piece of historical glory.
“I was indeed very proud to be a Cambodian. I took up the citizenship two years ago, and it has always been my burning desire to represent Cambodia in an ultramarathon I so passionately involve myself in,” said Mitsuji Konoshita, who had taken part in as many as 11 over-100-mile events last year and has already run two of the kind this year and is heading to two more in the next few months..
Among the first to congratulate Mitsuji Konoshita was the minister for tourism and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, who described this achievement as a “historical event and one that should inspire every Cambodian. We are so proud of you,” he said.
Later in his address during the medal ceremony, the minister said the introduction of this ultramarathon, which is fast gaining global popularity, was to boost sports tourism and attract more and more adventure-loving foreigners to the Kingdom.
“We are pleased that 250 participants from 26 countries took part this year. It is a great number to begin with. For us the learning curve is long. There may have been some organisational shortfalls in our first attempt but we hope to make this event better when we host it again in January next year,” the NOCC president declared.
In the Women’s 128km event, Thailand’s Boonthant Suksodkeaw outstayed the rest with a timing of 21 hours 27.57 minutes keeping at a fair distances the French pair of Dufour Isabelle and Veyre Auroleia
In the women’s 64km challenge, Ireland’s Haimill Jill, who is no stranger to Cambodian distance events like the half marathons and the fuller version, proved her enormous staying potential by winning the event in six hours and 29 minutes. Australia’s Voseh Kathyrin finished second ahead of Chen Cheng of Singapore.
Interestingly, Jill and Cambodia’s Rio Olympics probable Nary Ly have competed against each other in many local long-distance events with Jill enjoying a better winning record.
Among the men competing the 64km event, R Gregorie of Switzerland proved the one with greater reserves of stamina by winning the event in six hours and 42 minutes, pushing Defond Yann of France to second place and Zwierlein Rob of Australia to the third position.
One young Cambodian girl who showed a lot of courage in finishing the course was given a special award as a promising talent.
The event organised by the Sports Performance Development Organisation (SPDO) was fully supported by the government, the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, the Apsara Authority and the Siem Reap Provincial Authority.