JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Hiroto Inoue won Japan's first gold in 32 years in the men's marathon at the Asian Games when he edged Elhassan Elabbassi of Bahrain in the first race of the day at the Games' main venue on Saturday.
Bahrain lodged a complaint to race officials after the race, Elabbassi accusing the Japanese runner of pushing in the final stretch but the protest was rejected, according to an official from the Japan Association of Athletics Federations.
In the race that started at 6 a.m., the two men ran neck and neck for much of the way but it was Inoue who outpaced Elabbassi in the final stretch at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 22 seconds.
Elabbassi was credited with the same time but second in the photo finish, followed by China's Duo Bujie, 26 seconds back. Japan's Hayato Sonoda took fourth in 2:19:04.
"It was a tough race. I knew I'd win in the home stretch so I went all out. I'm glad I managed to win," Inoue said.
It was the first time a Japanese runner won the gold in the men's marathon since Takeyuki Nakayama achieved the feat at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games.
"(After the 35-kilometer point) I pushed the pace but my opponent was faster than I thought. This is a big confidence boost for me. I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this alone. I owe my fans back in Japan and those who cheered me on here," Inoue said.
Inoue and Elabbassi entered the stadium together and were neck and neck coming around the final curve of the athletics track. Elabbassi attempted to surge ahead of Inoue on the inside lane but the two made contact with the Bahraini stumbling and falling behind his rival as a result.
Sonoda, who saw Inoue and Elabbassi pull away from him after the 37-km point, said, "This was a race I could have won. I thought if I just hung on at the front I could have acted when they made their move. I found out how hard this really is."
The race was held in hot, humid conditions despite the early start, with six of the 21 starters failing to finish.