Ji Young-Jun takes a big Marathon victory at the Asian Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
On an undulating course at a picturesque island south of Guangzhou that was also used for the triathlon, Ji Young-Jun clocked 2:11:11 after having broken away from the defending champion, Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar, towards the closing stages.
Hassan, who later complained about paucity of mineral water, could not respond when Japanese Yukihiro Kitaoka ran past him just before the finish, and settled for the bronze in 2:12:53, just seven second behind the Japanese.
Ji Young-Jun had come into this competition at the head of the season lists for Asia with his 2:09:31 at Daegu in April, and he lived up to that standing in winning the title after the race started just past noon, in not-so-ideal weather.
The women’s race that had started about four hours earlier, was won by Chinese Zhou Chunxiu, the Beijing Olympics bronze medallist, who was followed by teammate Zhou Xiaolin. It wrapped up the athletics programme of the Games with 13 gold medals for the hosts while India and Bahrain had five each and Japan and Kazakhstan four each.
There was a skirmish between Hassan and Ji Young-Jun during the race when the Korean accidentally stepped on the Qatari’s ankle from behind.
“My pace then was a bit different from his which was why I accidentally stepped on the back of his ankle,” said the Korean. “But he over-reacted and slapped me on the back of my shoulder which really hurt. But it was okay.”
Hassan said that Ji had been stepping on the back of his ankle during the race. “It really upset me. So I tried to break away from him and the others. I don’t think he meant to do it.”
Hassan’s problem, according to him was an inadequate supply of natural mineral water at water stations. “For the sake of water I failed to keep up with the leading runner. I am only used to normal water (mineral) at supply points. So it took me extra time to find suitable water.”
Kitaoka said that he was not sure about maintaining his third place after he went past Hassan. “When overtaking (Hassan) near the finish I was actually not sure if I could make it. But finally I did it. I am quite glad,” he said.
In the women’s race, a leading group of four runners was there at the turn, with the Chinese in front. North Korean Kim Kum Ok who kept close to the Chinese much of the time finished third while Indonesian Triyaningsih who had to take off her head scarf during the early part of the race since it was becoming troublesome in her progress, finished fourth in a PB of 2:31:49.
For the first 30 km the two Chinese and Kim were together, with the Chinese looking stronger. Zhou explained later that the strategy chalked by the coach was to lead together for the first 30km and for the stronger one to take over during the last 10km.
That is what Zhou, also a silver medallist at the World Championship in 2007, did.
“The weather was okay, though I felt a little hot after completing 30km,” said Zhou. “This has been my best season in terms of results,” she said.
By an IAAF Correspondent
Men: 1. Ji Young-Jun (Kor) 2:11:11, 2. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Jpn) 2:12:46, 3. Mubarak Hassan Shami (Qat) 2:12:53.
Women: 1. Zhou Chunxia (Chn) 2:25:00, 2. Zhu Xiaolin (Chn) 2:26:35, 3. Kim Kum Ok (PRK) 2:27:06.
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