After boasting that his defeat was “impossible,” Japan’s Kohei Yamamoto was served up a hearty helping of crow, finishing second to Hong Kong’s Chan Chun Hing in the Asian Games mountain bike final on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Yamamoto, who successfully defended his Asian crown in South Korea, in September, finished 15 seconds behind Chan, with China’s Duan Zhiqiang 2:32 back to take the bronze.
Chan covered a the grueling Dafushan mountain course, which was modeled on the one used for the Beijing Olympics, in 2:11:34.
“I had set myself the goal to be the world champion, but now I have lost the Asian Games race I can’t say that I’m the champion, so I’m kind of disappointed,” Yamamoto said.
On his slick website, yamamotokohei.com, he had claimed victory was “a matter of course.”
“How can a man who aims to become number one in the world lose in Asia? It’s impossible to imagine,” he wrote.
He blamed fatigue for his performance, finishing second in the 32.4 km (20 miles) race over six laps, during which he overtook Chan early on, only for the Hong Kong racer to fight back and eventually hold on for a close victory.
“In September I was in the world championships and I’ve been racing since February, so I’m tired physically and mentally,” Yamamoto said.
“Now I have to adjust my mental state before the London Olympics (in 2012).”
Chan’s surprise victory was Hong Kong’s first in Asian Games mountain biking and brings a decisive end to Japan’s stranglehold on the event.
It also adds to the one gold, four silver and single bronze that Hong Kong has won in track cycling at the games.
“We wanted two gold medals — and we got them,” said Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang.
Chan, a regular top finisher on the Asian circuit, competed for Hong Kong in the team pursuit at the 2006 Asian Games but exchanged the track for the wild and became the former British colony’s first mountain biker to appear at the Olympics.
“I’ve beaten Yamamoto twice before, so I was determined to strive to win in my country or I wouldn’t have been satisfied,” said Chan.
In the women’s final, it was a China one-two, as Ren Chengyuan comfortably took gold, with compatriot Shi Qinglan riding to silver and Rie Katayama, of Japan, winning the bronze.
China’s Ma Yanping won at the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games, but there was no mountain bike event in Doha four years ago.
Ren, who was the hot favorite, carried on the tradition, showing why she is a three-time Asian champion and former under-23 world champion.
Ren had suffered severe disappointment at the Olympics in 2008, finishing only fifth after experiencing technical difficulties, but she was rarely troubled this time.
“I was in the lead for the whole race and was very tired and felt a little lonely,” said Ren.