2-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong not selected for 2019 SEA Games

Petty politics?

Belmont Lay | August 01, 2019, 11:41 PM

Is Singapore cutting off its nose to spite its face?

It looks like two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong will not be competing in the upcoming 2019 biennial event.

This is despite Team Singapore's plan to send its biggest overseas contingent for the 2019 SEA Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in the Philippines.

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) announced on Thursday, Aug. 1 a provisional list of athletes going for the biennial Games,

But the 27-year-old runner was not among the 585 athletes in 49 sports that were listed.

Soh was solely responsible for 50 percent of track and field's gold haul at the 2017 Games.

If Soh were to participate, it is likely he would win the gold medal a third consecutive time.

What SNOC said

The national Olympic body said in a statement: "The SNOC selection committee has deliberated carefully all nominations put forward by the NSAs (national sports associations) for their athletes for the upcoming SEA Games."

"In the case of the nomination put forward by Singapore Athletics (SA) for Soh Rui Yong's participation at the 2019 SEA Games, the selection committee has decided to reject SA's nomination."

"Since the 2017 SEA Games, there have been numerous instances where Soh has displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to, considering that they are held up and seen as representatives of the country and as examples to our sporting youth."

"As such, the SNOC has decided to reject SA's nomination for his national representation at the 2019 SEA Games."

Soh's response

Soh told Mothership.sg after the list was made public: "I'm disappointed that SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin and his team have chosen to behave in such a petty manner. This is akin to primary school playground politics where kids go, 'I don't friend you already!' just because you say something they don't like."

"I consider winning medals for my country at SEA Games to be a national service. Since I no longer am bound to this duty, I look forward to exploring my potential at other marathons I've always wanted to race at, such as the Boston Marathon."

"I wish all my athletics team-mates all the best of luck in Manila and will be rooting for them always."

Soh also said he won't be appealing.

He added: "I don't wish to waste more time on unreasonable people at SNOC."

Soh's qualifies for SEA Games

In March 2019, Soh clocked 2hr 23min 42sec at the Seoul Marathon, which broke the national record that was set in 1995.

This result cleared the qualifying benchmark, 2:31:52, which is the third-place result at the previous 2017 SEA Games.

Soh's timing is reportedly the second-best time in 2019 clocked by a Southeast Asian marathoner.

Soh's clashes with SNOC

Soh was given a formal warning by the SNOC before the 2017 Games kicked off for promoting personal sponsors on social media during the biennial Games.

He had also cut holes in his race vest before winning the race in Kuala Lumpur, and reportedly upset sponsor 2XU.

2XU terminated its sponsorship of Singapore Athletics four months later.

And in April 2019, the SNOC served Soh a legal letter to demand the retraction of allegations against fellow marathoner Ashley Liew over an act of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games.

Liew was nominated by the SNOC for an international fair play award for his act.

Soh had also criticised SNOC on social media multiple times this year for backing Liew.

On June 19, Soh wrote: "The Singapore National Olympic Council should be ashamed at themselves for failing conduct a proper investigation of truth, and choosing rather to only speak with witnesses from one side in order to back up what they want to believe."

The selection committee of 10 was chaired by SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin.

Soh's outspokenness has been a thing since he made a dent on the sport years ago.

The 2019 SEA Games will be held in the cities of Clark, Manila and Subic from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.