PHNOM PENH (AFP) –
A Japanese comedian has been barred from representing Cambodia in the men’s marathon at the London Olympics, after the athletics world governing body said he was ineligible.
Kuniaki Takizaki, a TV star renowned for his quirky cat impressions under the stage name Neko Hiroshi, has not been a Cambodian citizen long enough to compete internationally, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said in an email Tuesday.
IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said Takizaki could not run for his country until October — one year after he obtained citizenship. The men’s marathon takes place on August 12.
“A request by the Cambodian athletics federation to reduce the normal waiting period for this athlete (from one year) to switch nationality from Japan to Cambodia has been refused by the IAAF council,” said Davies.
Cambodia was informed of the decision on May 7, he added.
Cambodia’s nomination of Takizaki, 34, as one of five wildcard entries to the Games caused a storm in the Southeast Asian country, with critics bemoaning his nationality change and arguing that he was edging out homegrown talent.
Takizaki was handed the wildcard after Cambodia’s top marathon runner Hem Bunting quit the national team last year and fell out with the national athletics body over training conditions.
Vath Chamroeun, general secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, said the national athletics federation would now select another athlete.
Kieng Samorn, an 800-metre specialist, could be given the chance to compete at the Olympics instead, Chamroeun told AFP.
Takizaki’s Cambodian spokesman Keo Visal was not immediately available for comment.