S'pore refuses to pick top marathoner Soh Rui Yong for SEA Games again

Second time he is missing SEA Games and Singapore missing out on a gold medal.

Belmont Lay | February 17, 2022, 12:16 PM

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Singapore is cutting off its nose to spite its face again after two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong was not selected to compete in the upcoming 2022 biennial event.

This is the second straight SEA Games where the 30-year-old was not chosen by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

Soh had clinched golds in 2015 and 2017.

He was similarly dropped from the squad in 2019, effectively denying him a third straight gold medal.

This was despite Soh recently setting a new national record of 2 hours 22 minutes 59 seconds in the qualifying window, which is more than 10 minutes faster than the qualifying mark of 2:33:08 set by SNOC.

Name not on list

The two-time men's marathon gold medallist's name was not found on the list of 330 athletes selected for the SEA Games in May to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This was despite meeting the qualifying marks for two events in the regional meet.

Reason: Soh's conduct fell short

Following the release of the athletes' SEA Games list on Feb. 16, an SNOC spokesperson told The Straits Times that the nomination by Singapore Athletics (SA) for Soh's SEA Games participation was rejected because the marathoner "fell short of the standards of attitude and behaviour the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to", which it had also stated in 2019.

SNOC also said its selection criteria "has been well-publicised and communicated" to all national sports associations, including SA since 2020.

"Soh's conduct and behaviour has continued to fall short of those standards," the spokesperson added.

"There has been no attempt by him to make amends, correct or apologise for his conduct and behaviour. Instead, there have been continued and persistent actions by Soh to challenge, mock, threaten and/ or disrespect organisations and individuals including the SNOC."

"The SNOC views such conduct and behaviour as unbecoming of an athlete that wishes to be selected to represent his country at major Games, and as contrary to the aforesaid requirement of the Olympic Charter."

No specific incidents were mentioned by SNOC.

But Soh and SNOC have clashed over the runner's promotion of personal sponsors at the 2017 SEA Games.

Soh had also initially objected to donating 20 per cent of his S$10,000 cash reward for his gold-medal win back to SA for training and development.

The spokesman noted: "Such criteria include meeting objective qualifying standards, as well as non-performance related standards and qualities such as attitude and behaviour towards coaches, fellow athletes and officials (whether in relation to sporting matters or otherwise), conduct and character which may affect the reputation, image, values or best interests of the athlete or the sport, and the ability to demonstrate team spirit and work well with teammates and officials."

Soh reacts

Soh is in London pursuing law.

He reacted to the announcement by putting up a Facebook post deriding the call to exclude him.

He wrote that it is hard to resolve disputes when SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin has blocked direct online communications with him, but Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong has offered to mediate the situation with SNOC.

Soh wrote:

I can confirm that President of SNOC, Tan Chuan Jin, has blocked me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, for reasons only known to himself. While he is well within his rights to block whoever he wants to block, it’s hard to resolve disputes when the leader of the SNOC himself is not open to communication.

I met Minister Edwin Tong in January and he was very kind in offering to help mediate my situation with SNOC. I have not been privy to his conversations with SNOC after that but I would like to say a big thank you to Minister Tong for his efforts.

As a parting shot, Soh wrote that he has put past disputes behind and that Singapore will once again miss out on a gold medal.

He wrote: "As far as I’m concerned, any disputes in the past is long water under the bridge for me. I’m happy to make amends and resolve matters, but it takes two hands to clap."

"On my part, apologies for any inconveniences that have arisen from my past actions and apologies that Singapore will once again miss out on a marathon gold medal as things stand. Good luck to the rest of the team competing in Vietnam."

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