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Japanese pair miss out to Mahboob

by Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Kohei Matsumura and Yuki Kawauchi lost a footrace against Bahrain’s Ali Hasan Mahboob in the final stage of the men’s marathon and had to settle for the silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the Asian Games on Friday.

Mahboob, a specialist at 5,000 and 10,000 meters who was running his first marathon, grabbed the lead as the trio entered the tunnel at Incheon Asiad Main Stadium and held off Matsumura by one second in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 38 seconds. Kawauchi finished in 2:12:42.

“I want to say thank you to the organizers. This was my first marathon and I think I did OK. I feel very tired,” said Mahboob, who appeared to run most of the race as if he were out for an afternoon jog.

Asked where he gets his energy to remain relaxed, Mahboob said, “I train very hard with my coaches. They help me reach my best level.”

Matsumura, who was best among Japanese racers in fourth in his debut at the 2012 Beppu Oita Marathon, said he wanted to break away from the leading pack but could not find the right moment.

“If I tried to go, the Bahrain athlete was there right at my side. I thought if I tried but couldn’t follow through, he could probably chase me down in the end,” Matsumura said.

“My goal was to win the gold medal. I’m glad I could run well, but it’s very disappointing not to get the gold. I have to train much harder,” he said.

A group of five runners — Mahboob, Matsumura, Kawauchi, Serod Batochir of Mongolia and North Korea’s Pak Chol — were in the driver’s seat after 35 km.

Pak, who finished in fifth, took a tumble in the final 5 km and slipped off the leading pack. It then turned into a three-horse race after 2:09 when Batochir dropped off and eventually finished in fourth.

Mahboob, winner of the gold medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and the 10,000 meters at the Doha Games in 2006, bided his time and pulled ahead at 2:10. He praised the Japanese runners afterward.

“They pushed the race and I followed. The Japanese runners have very good times, so I decided to follow their pace,” he said.

Kawauchi, who has a personal best of 2:08:14, led at the 25-km mark but he began to show signs of tiring on a chilly day in the race that started near Sogndo Central Park.

“I am very disappointed because my goal was to get gold. If you don’t feel disappointment in a race like this, you should quit as an athlete,” Kawauchi said.

“Four seconds off the winning time and I lacked power against Matsumura as well,” Kawauchi said. “I have to take a hard look in the mirror and train to have a time that is worthy to return to the world stage,” he said.

Japan wins sevens title

Incheon South Korea KYODO

Japan took its first step toward the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics by winning the men’s rugby sevens title for a third successive time on Thursday.

Japan defeated Hong Kong 24-12 in the final, overcoming an early deficit to grab a 17-12 lead when Lomano Lemeki crossed with under three minutes left in the second half.

“It means a lot,” said forward Michael Leitch. “Looking toward Rio, only one team can take that spot so it’s a big step for Japan rugby.”