About 5,000 participants sprint toward the main hall of Nishinomiyajinja shrine on Jan. 10 in an annual event to determine the "luckiest man of the year." (Video footage provided by Asahi Television Broadcasting Corp.)

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture--A gym teacher in his 30s bested participants half his age in a morning race at a shrine here, making him the "luckiest man of the year."

About 5,000 people gathered at Nishinomiyajinja shrine on Jan. 10 to make the approximate 230-meter dash to the main hall, with the first three to arrive dubbed the three luckiest men.

Yusuke Kurogi, 33, who teaches physical education at the Osaka prefectural Fujiidera technical high school and advises the school baseball team, said after his first-place finish, "Fortune smiled on me, allowing me to become the luckiest man.

"I hope this year becomes a fulfilling one for me, so that I can share some of the good fortune with others."

Kurogi added that it was his 13th attempt.

Haruki Fujimoto, 15, a sophomore at the city-run Nishinomiya High School in central Japan, was second.

"I want to share some of my good fortune with my older brother who will take the university entrance exams (later in spring)," he said. "Next year, I want to come in first."

The third-place finisher was Yohei Kawabata, 27, who traveled all the way from Kawasaki, just west of Tokyo, for the race.

He said he was still trying to land a regular company job, adding, "I haven't been blessed with much good fortune until now, but I want to make efforts to share some of this fortune with those dear to me."

Nishinomiyajinja is the head shrine of those dedicated to the Shinto god Ebisu, the bringer of prosperity.