Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Neko Hiroshi runs away with Angkor marathon

Neko Hiroshi runs away with Angkor marathon

Neko Hiroshi (right) receives his award from Tourism Minister Thong Khon after winning the 2014 Angkor Empire Marathon in Siem Reap
Neko Hiroshi (right) receives his award from Tourism Minister Thong Khon after winning the 2014 Angkor Empire Marathon in Siem Reap yesterday. Yeun Ponlork

Neko Hiroshi runs away with Angkor marathon

Japan’s Neko Hiroshi, a well-known comedian in his homeland who became a naturalised Cambodian citizen three years ago, won for his adopted country the inaugural Angkor Empire Marathon in Siem Reap yesterday.

The distinction of scoring a historic first in the women’s event went to France’s Veronique Messina, who recorded her own maiden success over 42km after notable half marathon triumphs in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukvile this year.

As the world’s fourth most popular and Asia’s second most visited tourist destination, the Angkor Wat temple complex provided a perfect backdrop for the launch of Cambodia’s first full marathon, which was nearly three years in the making.

Adding to the conviviality of the occasion was Hiroshi delivering the master stroke as a Cambodian ahead of Japan’s Ba Gan in a leisurely time of two hours, 45 minutes and 28 seconds.

“There was no pace at all. I had to generate my own and the timing was quite slow. But I am happy. It gives me great confidence going to the Asian Games in Incheon,” Hiroshi told the Post after passing the finish line to a grand ovation.

As an Owarai comedian, Neko uses his short stature – 1.45m height and 46kg weight – and his cat persona in his acts, but it is his passion for long distance running that endeared him to Cambodia.

Controversy surrounded his inclusion in Cambodia’s London-bound Olympic squad in 2012 after he was granted citizenship but the international governing body (IAAF) ruled that he had not met the one-year eligibility criteria.

Interestingly another TV comic, Yann Lefond of France who performs in Cambodian, shared the podium with Hiroshi yesterday after finishing third.

For Messina, who teaches French in Phnom Penh, long distance running is more of a hobby.

“I had planned to run in a marathon in China but I couldn’t make it. I have run in events longer than the 42km before but those are cross country,” Messina, who clocked 3 hours 36 minutes and eight seconds, told the Post.

China’s Wai Fong Cham came second, checking in nearly seven minutes behind the winner, with Marj Kauri of Finland in third spot.

The supporting men’s and women’s half marathons were won by runners from Europe.

Dutchman Marjin Vander Wardt won the men’s 21km event with a timing of 1:37.37 ahead of two French runners, Simon Lorelli and Joss Vasquez.

Denmark’s Camilla Munch Neilson took the honours in the women’s half marathon, clocking a winning time of 1:50.58 with China’s Shumei Jia and Germany’s Petra Diener filling up the Podium.

There was no opposition worth naming for Cambodia’s Kieng Samorn in the men’s 10km event. His 37.37 spin saw him to an easy win over compatriots Kom Seyha and Horn Panha.

Sarah Hopkins of Great Britain won the women’s 10km run in 54.30, with Hilary Acer of the United States in second place and Renee Hulsmann of Canada finishing third.

As many as 2,700 runners took part in the various events making it another major charity run in the country’s calendar.

“I was very happy with the turnout. It was indeed a historic beginning for Cambodia. We now join nearly 100 countries staging the full marathon,” National Olympic Committee of Cambodia President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post.

“We will continue with this calendar. The full marathon for the low season in August and the half marathon during the high season in December,” he added.

When asked about about the prospects of staging full marathons in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, the Minister said: “We will make a study of this.”


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Cambodia, states clash at UN session

    Cambodia traded shots with the international community in a heated exchange at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday evening, with states condemning the Kingdom’s ongoing crackdown on the political opposition and civil society, and an increasingly agitated Cambodia accusing member states