Japan’s Kenji Nener Crowned Asian Games Champion in Hangzhou

by Courtney Akrigg/World Triathlon Media

Japan’s Kenji Nener surged to victory with an unstoppable performance in Hangzhou to become 2023 Asian Games champion. Makoto Odakura (JPN) secured silver with a fierce race set-up and Ayan Beisenbayev (KAZ) earned a hard-fought bronze in the tough conditions in China!

Steamy conditions hovered over the Chun’an Jieshou Sports Centre for the start of the Triathlon competition in the 2023 Asian Games Hangzhou as the Elite men took to the start line. Japan’s Kenji Nener led the field onto the pontoon as the men commenced their standard-distance race in China.

Race favourite Kenji Nener, Kazakhstan’s Ayan Beisenbayev and Japan’s Makoto Odakura led the field through the second and final lap of the 1.5km lake swim in Hangzhou. By the end of the swim, the trio had opened up a sizeable gap on the field. Nener, Odakura, Beisenbayev, Kazakhstan’s Temirlan Temirov, Korea’s Ji Hwan Kim and China’s Mingxu Li were the first of the men out of the swim and into transition.

Nener produced a slick transition to be the first athlete to ride on the 40km bike course.

In the early stages of the bike portion of the race, there were nine athletes together in the chase group, riding together over 1-minute-10-seconds down on the leader. The chasers included Hong Kong’s Jason Ng Tai Long Hardcastle, Temirov, Odakura and Kim.

Korea’s Wan Hyuk Kim, Indonesia’s Rashif Amila Yaqin and Temirov were in the next chase group and were losing ground on the leaders.

As each lap passed Nener was proving a force to be reckoned with out on the 6-lap course. On the closing stage of the bike segment, the Japanese triathlete continued to extend his lead which was now over 2 minutes 30 seconds on the field, across the challenging sharp and hilly route.

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As Nener exited the final transition of the day it was down to a gruelling and hilly 10km run course in sweltering conditions in Hangzhou. He commenced the run segment with no other competitors in sight.

The chasing group had some work to do to determine who would have the power and leg speed to hunt down an Asian Games medal.

Hardcastle, China’s Junjie Fan, Beisenbayev, Odakura and Kim are all known for their strong and powerful run strike but what was unknown was how it would play out on a course like this in Hangzhou where the heat of the region and gnarly hills were part of it.

Kenji Nener looked unstoppable out on the course and was able to make significant headway on the field to enjoy the blue carpet victory in Hangzhou and be crowned the 2023 Asian Games champion in a winning time of 1 hour 50 minutes 54 seconds.

“Even though the result was good, the process was challenging. I had my own tactics first for swimming, followed by cycling. I had a tactic to take the lead on each lap. The target was to create a 35-second gap. The course was tough, but that’s racing. I wanted to make the front pack in the swim and the fight for the swim. In the swim, if there was an opportunity to break away, I was going to take it. Other athletes like ODAKURA Makoto (JPN) and BEISENBAYEV Ayan (KAZ) are fast runners, so I didn’t want to make it close before the run. The competition was so tough. For the Asian Games, my aim was to win the gold medal, but I didn’t know if I could do it.

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“Thank you for cheering me on. I appreciate the Chinese support for the event. You have placed a lot of people in the infrastructure. All of us athletes are grateful for providing such good facilities and course. I appreciate the support from everyone,” said 2023 Asian Games Triathlon champion Nener.

Fellow compatriot Makoto Odakura stretched his legs to soar down the finish line in second and earn silver for Japan in the 2023 Asian Games Hangzhou.

“Because of the World Triathlon Championship Finals (22-24 September in Pontevedra, Spain), we had one week’s preparation. Some athletes dropped out of the competition, it was very hard. I had a target, the silver medal, but I was also worried about my health and whether I could achieve that. But I was able to go on to the end. I want to thank everyone for all the support,” said silver medallist Odakura.

Ayan Beisenbayev earned a hard-fought bronze medal today in Hangzhou after a dominant display across all three race disciplines.

“Everything went smoothly. I did not expect to win the medal. That’s why I’m very excited. I have a lot of gratitude for my team-mate, the team and the whole family. I have never experienced such a tough competition. This is my first time to come to Hangzhou. It’s such a beautiful place with such great scenery. I’m amazed and delighted to compete in these Games,” said bronze medallist Beisenbayev.

China’s Mingxu Li just missed the men’s podium but crossed the line with an impressive fourth place in front of a roaring home crowd. Hong Kong’s Jason Ng Tai Long Hardcastle was in fifth place.

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