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Kitaoka places second in marathon

Kyodo

Yukihiro Kitaoka came in a distant second to Ji Young Jun of South Korea in the men’s marathon at the Asian Games on Saturday.

Ji broke away from 2006 champion and pre-race favorite Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar with about 5 kilometers to go and crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 11.11 seconds.

Kitaoka clocked 2:12:46 in only the second marathon of his career after overtaking a tiring Shami, who finished seven seconds further back.

The little-known 28-year-old runner, who made his marathon debut this past March with a fourth-place finish in a domestic meet, extended Japan’s medal streak in the men’s marathon to nine Games.

He also earned a spot at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea next year for being the top Japanese finisher in the race and an Asian Games medalist.

“I’m so happy with the result,” Kitaoka said. “Shami was the key person in the race. All of us (in the leading group) were paying attention to his every move. I was determined to claim at least the bronze while running. I continued to believe in my ability.”

Tomoyuki Sato, the other Japanese in the men’s field, placed seventh in 2:18:24.

Earlier Saturday, Kiyoko Shimahara and Yuri Kano finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in the women’s marathon, leaving Japan without a medal in the event for the first time in Asian Games history.

Shimahara, the 2006 Asian Games runnerup, dropped out of the leading pack after just 8 kilometers.

Japan had won a medal in the women’s marathon for six straight Asian Games since Eriko Asai won the inaugural race in 1986 in Seoul.

Closing ceremony

GUANGZHOU, China (Kyodo) The curtain came down Saturday on an Asian Games referred to by the Olympic Council of Asia president as “one of the best ever” with the closing ceremony in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou.

The closing gala, which featured a performance by the military band of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the official handover from Guangzhou to Incheon, South Korea was held at the Haixinsha Island which had opened the Games in the Pearl River.