Cambodian athlete Kuniaki Takizaki said in court yesterday that it would have been "totally impossible" for him to catch up with marathoner Ashley Liew within the one minute that he did at the 2015 SEA Games if the latter "was running".
The Japan-born runner was responding to District Judge Lee Li Choon's question on whether he would have reached and overtaken Singaporean Liew regardless of whether he had slowed down or not.
The 43-year-old Takizaki, who was one of the 12 runners in the marathon event, took the stand via video conference yesterday as the plaintiff's witness in Liew's defamation suit against former teammate Soh Rui Yong.
Soh had in October 2018 accused Liew of lying about the incident that occurred during the race in Singapore, where the latter said he had slowed down to allow other runners to catch up after they missed a U-turn and took the wrong path.
When asked by the district judge if, based on his running pace, he would have caught up with Liew, Takizaki said through an interpreter: "It is impossible to catch up with him in one minute if he was running.
"Only (because) he stayed, I caught up and overtook him... If he was running, totally impossible to catch up with him."
District Judge Lee also asked Takizaki to explain what gave him the impression that Liew had deliberately slowed down to let the rest catch up - as Takizaki had said in his affidavit.
The Cambodian replied that after he realised he had gone the wrong way and corrected his route, he noticed that the "runner in white shirt" - whom he later identified as Liew - was "almost stopping there, with a hand sign as if to say 'go ahead' to me and also to others who made the mistake".
Takizaki added that he saw Liew "standing there" but did not know at which point the Singaporean had stopped running.
According to Liew's testimony on Sept 1, he said Takizaki had been the first to close the gap and overtake him after getting back on the right route.
During his cross examination of the witness yesterday, Soh's lawyer Clarence Lun asserted that Takizaki and Liew's versions of events did not tally.
"If you (Takizaki) had overtaken him at slightly over the 300m mark (from the U-turn), as (Liew) says, you would be running at the speed of a bullet train," said Lun.
"There's only one way to reconcile the fact you were 100m away (after) the U-turn, and you caught up with him 300m (after) the U-turn point, and the one fact is Mr Ashley Liew gave the wrong evidence to the court."
Takizaki responded: "Whatever number of metres Ashley is talking about, I do not know. All I know is after (running) the wrong way for 100m, I turned back as fast as I could, and the point where I saw him, caught up with him and overtook him, was about one minute.
"But exactly where, is one thing I don't remember."
Takizaki, who is a comedian in Japan, also told the court Liew is not his friend and his only relationship with the Singaporean is that they ran in the same 2015 SEA Games race.
He added that the Cambodian Olympic Committee had contacted him via his lawyer when he was asked to be a witness in the case.
The trial continues today, with Liew expected back in court while Soh will testify on Friday.