PHNOM, PENH – Comedian Hiroshi Neko will represent Cambodia in the men’s marathon at this year’s Olympic Games in London, according to the secretary general of Cambodia’s Olympic committee.
Vath Chamroeun said Cambodia has received official confirmation that track and field’s ruling body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, has accepted Neko, 34.
“We are happy and congratulate Mr. Neko on being admitted for the Olympic Games. He deserves to be admitted for his tireless efforts and hard training on his own,” Vath Chamroeun said.
Neko, who was born in Chiba Prefecture and whose real name is Kuniaki Takizaki, became a naturalized Cambodian citizen in late 2011 after competing in several international half-marathons in Cambodia, which won him many fans in the country.
Pen Vuthy, secretary general of the Khmer Amateur Athletics Federation, said Neko’s sacrifices for the sake of Cambodia are a source of pride for the public.
“As you know, some countries spend much money to buy foreign nationals who are good at sports, but we pay nothing to Neko and instead he comes to help us,” he said.
Pen Vuthy said that while Neko’s chances of winning a medal are slim, the comedian will likely not finish in last place either. At an international half-marathon in Siem Reap in 2010, Neko finished third. Last year, he came in second in the first international half-marathon in Phnom Penh.