No joke: ‘Neko Hiroshi’ Takizaki drenched at SEA Games
SINGAPORE (AP) — For a comedian, he doesn’t do a bad sideline gig as a marathon runner.
It was no laughing matter when Kuniaki Takizaki — widely known in Japan by his alter ego Neko Hiroshi, which translates to Cat Hiroshi — was getting soaked Sunday at the SEA Games, a mini-Olympics for 11 southeast Asian countries, where he was running a marathon for Cambodia.
He momentarily got lost on the course during the tropical downpour, missed a water station, and was unhappy with his sixth-place finish in 2 hours, 42 minutes and 39 seconds, almost eight minutes behind gold medalist Soh Rui Yong, a 23-year-old Singaporean running his second competitive race over the distance.
“I want to go to the Olympics, for sure ... I know I have to get faster,” the 37-year-old Takizaki said through a translator. “I got a bit lost ... everybody was lost, or not sure of the right way. But it was the same for everyone.”
Takizaki is from Japan but switched to Cambodian nationality in 2011, hoping to represent the country at the 2012 Olympics. The international athletics federation ruled that he wouldn’t be eligible until October of that year, meaning he missed out on the London Games.
It was contentious at the time. Cambodian authorities said he’d spent time earlier living in the country and had never represented Japan, but it wasn’t quite enough.
He made his name in Japan with his humor and cat impersonations, and had a big following of supporters at the race on Sunday. He took time after the marathon to pose for photographs, raising his hand like a paw, and say thanks to his fans from Cambodia, Japan and Singapore.
And he was in better humor as the sun returned, laughing as he explained that it wasn’t entirely true that cats don’t like a drenching.
“It’s a lot of hot weather, so the rain was OK,” he said. “I was comfortable. The rain was cool, so it was good for me.”
He has spent enough time living and training in Cambodia now to be eligible for Olympic qualifying.
He’s not joking when he says he’s determined to feel the experience of being an Olympic athlete, but he knows his age and size — he’s 1.45 meters (4-foot-9) and lightweight — that his career might be in comedy.