JAKARTA - Hiroto Inoue won the Asian Games marathon gold medal after a late tangle with Bahrain’s Elhassan Elabbassi as the pair sprinted together in the closing meters of the race.
Inoue finished in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 22 seconds and held his arms out wide as he crossed the line less than a meter ahead of Elabassi, who was credited with the same time.
Inoue and Elabassi dueled for the lead over the last five kilometers on a steamy Saturday morning in the Indonesian capital.
They entered the main stadium together and were shoulder-to-shoulder coming around the last curve of the athletics track. Elhassan attempted to surge inside Inoue on the left in the inside lane with about 50 meters to go but collected the foot of his Japanese rival and lost his balance.
“It was a tough race. I knew I would win in the home stretch so I went all out,” Inoue said. “This is a big confidence boost for me. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this alone.”
Inoue was accused of pushing by Elabbassi and Bahrain lodged a complaint with race officials.
In the final 100 meters, Elabbassi attempted to overtake Inoue on the inside but fell back after apparent contact.
“The No. 1 (leader) pushed me,” said Elabbassi. “I would have won.”
It was Japan’s first gold in the Asian Games men’s marathon in 32 years, and comes as the country prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
China’s Duo Bujie took the bronze, 26 seconds behind, and Japan’s Hayato Sonoda, who set the pace at the 30 and 35-km marks, faded to finish fourth. Ser-od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia led at the 25-km mark before finishing in fifth place.
The race was held in hot, humid conditions despite the 6 a.m. start. Six of the 21 starters failed to finish.
The win gave Japan the first gold medal of the athletics program and 30th overall in the games, which are being cohosted by Jakarta and Palembang. China led the medal standings with 66 golds ahead of day 7.