Daily Archives: 22 December 2003

Koreans in Olympic Marathons

In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals for the U.S., two Korean marathon runners, Sohn Kee-chung and Nam Sung-yong, brought home gold and bronze medals for Japan while running on the Japanese team under their Japanized names, Son Kitei and Nan Shoryu. Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and occupied it until 1945.

When the Korean Dong-A Ilbo newspaper printed a photograph of Son after his performance, it erased the image of the Japanese flag that was on Son’s uniform. This action resulted in the governor general of Korea banning publication of the paper and arresting its president, as well as expelling organs of public opinion.

Sohn went on to chair several Korean sports organizations and was among those who carried the Olympic flame at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Although his medal is still credited to Japan by both the IOC and Japan OC, Sohn lived to see the sweet day, 56 years after Berlin, when his countryman Hwang Young-cho made history in the marathon that capped the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, by outlasting Japan’s Koichi Morishita after they doggedly traded the lead again and again during the long plod up the slopes of Montjuic.

Sohn died in November 2002 at the age of 90.

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The Honolulu Marathon

On Sunday, December 14, Jimmy Muindi of Kenya won the 2003 Honolulu Marathon Men’s Division in 2:12:59, exactly the time his countryman Mbarak Hussein achieved last year. Kenyans J. Muindi, M. Hussein, Benson Masya, and Ibrahim Hussein (the men’s record holder) have won the Men’s Division nearly every year since 1985. The only ones who have been able to displace them have been Gianni Poli of Italy in 1988, Simon Robert Naali of Tanzania in 1989-90, Bong Ju Lee of Korea in 1993, and Josia Thugwane of South Africa in 1995.

In the Women’s Division, Carla Beurskens of the Netherlands won 8 out of 10 years between 1985 and 1994. Most of the following years were dominated by runners from Russia and Kyrgyzstan: Ramila Burangulova, Svetlana Vasilieva, Irina Bogacheva, Lyubov Morgunova (the women’s record holder), and Svetlana Zakharova. But in 2003, Eri Hayakawa became the first champion from Japan, with a time of 2:31:56. Almost every year since 1989, about one-half to two-thirds of the entrants in the Honolulu Marathon have come from Japan. A total of 246,778 have entered since 1973.

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