Time Ticking on Cambodia’s Olympic Marathon Decision

As the Khmer Amateur Ath­letic Federation prepares for a meeting next Thursday in which it will discuss whether Cam­bodian runner Hem Bunting or Ja­panese com­edian Takizaki Ku­niaki will represent Cambodia at the London Olympic Games, Mr. Bunting’s relationship with the federation re­mains fragile. Mr. Takizaki, however, will meet with the body next week to discuss his bid to represent Cambodia at the games.

National Olympic Committee (NOC) Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun said Mr. Takizaki is cur­rently training in Japan, but will fly to Cambodia next week to meet with the federation and the NOC on March 17 to de­cide how much sponsorship mon­ey he will give toward this year’s Phnom Penh Marathon in June. As a co-sponsor of the mara­thon last year, Mr. Takizaki gave $3,000 toward the race, which cost $20,000 in total, Mr. Chamroeun said. This year, he is expected to be the main sponsor, he added.

Mr. Bunting, meanwhile, is currently training in Kenya’s Rift Valley at the world-renowned high-altitude camp in Iten, and has set his eyes on the Paris Ma­rathon, which he will race on April 15 with the hopes of making the 2:18 Olympic qualifying time.

Agriculture and Professionals, Inc, a Japanese investment company based in Cambodia that is also a donor to the NOC, is covering Mr. Bunting’s training ex­pen­ses in Ken­ya, according to a source close to the federation and Mr. Bunting who did not wish to be named due to the sen­sitive na­ture of choosing Cam­bodia’s Olym­pic marathon runner.

The investment firm began spon­soring Mr. Bunting in January as it launched a new Web design business in Cambodia and was looking for ways to support the country, the source said.

Mr. Chamroeun, the NOC secretary-general, said on Friday that Cam­bodia must submit its list of Olym­pic competitors to the Inter­national Olympic Committee by the end of the month, but said it won’t be too late to add Mr. Bun­ting to the lineup if he does qualify in Paris.

“As it looks now, Bunting is not in the federation, so he probably won’t go to the Olympics. But if he qualifies, he can go and I wish him luck. We can always add him to the list after the end-of-March dead­line,” he said.

Neither Mr. Bunting nor Mr. Ta­kizaki has made the cut in terms of the required marathon time so far, but each is very close, with Mr. Bun­ting’s best time at 2:25, only five minutes faster than Mr. Taki­zaki’s 2:30.

Mr. Chamroeun also said that Mr. Bunting’s standing with the fed­eration that saw him expelled from the athletics body has not improved and is threatening his Olympic hopes.

“One journalist asked Bunting to contact the federation for his own good, but Bunting stubbornly said the federation should first approach him,” Mr. Chamroeun said.

Keo Visal, Mr. Takizaki’s coordinator in Cambodia, said Mr. Ta­kizaki is nervous about the federation’s verdict on whether he will run for Cambodia or not, but said he is focusing his attention on his training.

“There are many rules, so everybody has to meet and talk,” Mr. Visal said.

Mr. Takizaki, to whom the federation offered Cambodian citizenship before he competed in Nov­ember’s Southeast Asian Games as Cam­bodia’s runner, is also planning to donate money to underprivileged Cambodian athletes and the Red Cross in Cam­bodia, Mr. Visal said.

As a Cambodian, Mr. Visal said: “My feeling is that Cam­bodians should go to the Olym­pics for the country if they have the chance, but [Mr. Takizaki] wants to be Cambodian.”

A professional comedian in Ja­pan, Mr. Takizaki is famous for making cat noises and pawing gestures in his comedic acts.

 

Time Ticking on Cambodia’s Olympic Marathon Decision

 

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