A near sweep by Japan

CHENNAI was once again in focus as the officials of the Asian Triathlon Confederation (ASTC), who accompanied their teams for the 12th Asian triathlon championship, praised the host and the Indian Triathlon Federation executive for the excellent arrangements at INS Adyar Naval base near the Marina beach.

M. C. RAMAN

Daniil Sapunav, winner of the elite men's category, at the finish line. -- Pic. R. RAGU-

CHENNAI was once again in focus as the officials of the Asian Triathlon Confederation (ASTC), who accompanied their teams for the 12th Asian triathlon championship, praised the host and the Indian Triathlon Federation executive for the excellent arrangements at INS Adyar Naval base near the Marina beach.

Shizuka Kusuna (No. 84) pedals her way to glory in the 40 km cycling event, which was a part of the competition. Kusuna won the honours in the elite women's section. -- Pic. R. RAGU-

Unlike in 1996, when Chennai was the venue for the first time, there was no rain and the roads were neat and well protected by the local Police for the 40km cycling and 10km run for the elite group competitors. Organising such a major sport, which is a three-in-one event, is not an easy thing. It needs the help of the Navy and Police and the hosts have to coordinate with them to complete the course in perfect conditions. Once again the hosts did an excellent job and the visitors thanked them for the good arrangements. The only problem was the heat as the outgoing ASTC President Louda Peng of China said during the prize distribution ceremony and a few players, including three Indians, fainted at the finish line due to exhaustion. And one Japanese fell down from his cycle and suffered bruises on his shoulder. Barring these minor incidents there was nothing much to bother about.

Though the entries were from 14 countries — Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Nepal, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Macau and Philippines — the total number of participants was just 121 in six categories. Actually, there are only four sections — Elite men and women and junior boys and girls. But in the Elite section, there were exclusive events for under-23 men and women. But the prize money of $ 5000 for the first five places was only for the Elite Open category and other four section winners received trophies and certificates.

Yuchi Hosoda won the junior boys' event with ease. -- Pic. R. RAGU-

Kazakhstan, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Uzbekhistan are strong in this sport. But this time it was a near sweep by Japan in the individual events and the country won all the four gold medals at stake in the team championship. Even China and Kazakhstan could play only second fiddle to the Asian giant by collecting medals here and there. However, the prestigious Elite men's title went to Kazakhstan, and not to the favourite, Dimitriy Gaag, who was fourth in the Sydney Olympics and No. 7 in the current World ranking. Daniil Sapunov of Kazakhstan grabbed the gold in an almost blanket finish in which Chiwo Daniel Lee of Hong Kong and Junichi Yamamoto of Japan gave him a tough fight. Their margin of victory was just by a minute or two. So close was the finish.

Then Qin Caini of China won the Elite under-23 title, beating Japan's Junko Yashiro. These were the only two golds that eluded Japan, which, otherwise, walked away with the Elite under-23 men and Elite women titles. And it swept all the three medals in both the junior boys' and girls' sections, proving its domination in the sport that came into the Olympics so quickly.

Winner of the junior girls' category, Natsuki Matsumoto, displaying her gold medal. -- Pic. R. RAGU-

Owing to some technical problems, the team event results were declared the next day and Japan bagged all the gold medals.

But the Indian junior girls put up a good show by taking the bronze medal for the first time in the major event. It was a good exposure to the Indian participants and India's foreign coach Brett Mace wants more such exposure to make an impact in Asia.

The results:

Individual: Elite Men: 1. Daniil Sapunav (Kazakh — 1:54:46.0), 2. Chiwo Daniel Lee (HK), 3. Junichi Yamamoto (Japan). Women: 1. Shizuka Kusuna (Japan — 2:10:04.0), 2. Xing Lin (China), 3. Wang Hongni (China).

Under-23 Men: 1. Kenji Umatate (Japan — 2:07.23), 2. Kodo Hiramatsu (Japan), 3. Ivan (Uzbek). Women: 1. Quin Caini (China — 2:14:39.0), 2. Junko Yashiro (Japan), 3. Xin Yue (China).

Junior Boys: 1. Yuchi Hosoda (Japan — 1:02:31.0), 2. Hamomichi Aoshima (Japan), 3. Shohigashino (Japan). Girls: 1. Natsuki Matsumoto (Japan — 1:09:10.0), 2. Risa Kusunoki (Japan), 3. Keiko Tanaka (Japan).

Team championship: Open Men: 1. Japan, 2. China, 3. Hong Kong. Women: 1. Japan, 2. Kazakhstan, 3. Hong Kong.

Junior Boys: 1. Japan, 2. Kazakhstan, 3. Hong Kong. Girls: 1. Japan, 2. Hong Kong, 3. India.