SEA Games 2017

Row over sponsors fuels Soh's ambition

Soh Rui Yong raises the Singaporean flag after finishing first during the marathon in Putrajaya on Aug 19, 2017.
Soh Rui Yong raises the Singaporean flag after finishing first during the marathon in Putrajaya on Aug 19, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

KUALA LUMPUR • Marathoner Soh Rui Yong remains unapologetic over a disagreement with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) over the promotion of his personal sponsors.

The 26-year-old, who retained his marathon crown yesterday, was at odds with the SNOC for using social media to promote his personal sponsors - who are competitors of Team Singapore's backers - during the official blackout period from Aug 5 to Sept 5.

He was given a formal warning on Monday by Singapore's Major Games Preparation Committee and was told to remove the posts, which he complied with.

Yesterday after his win, however, he said: "It's weird that the more people disturb me, the faster I run. Pressure makes diamonds.

"I'd love to make a difference, I'm fighting for all athletes.

"It's just something I believe in and I believe in speaking up for certain issues like that.

"I've been told (my) approach is not the most diplomatic, but I think before the Games was the best time to generate some traction, really get some attention for this issue because after the Games no one cares.

"It added a good excitement around my race."

He continued to express his wish for allowing athletes to have "an increased say" in sponsorship rules.

He added: "I do understand their reasons for having this sponsorship rule.

"But, at the same time, I do think athletes need an increased say in some of these rules, because they affect us directly.

"It's just difficult to give your sponsors enough bang for their buck when it's a whole month that you can't mention them."

As for his critics, Soh had this to say: "I'm not too concerned. The higher you get, the more people hate on you.

"Some people were saying, 'This guy should shut up and run'. I guess I did today."

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Row over sponsors fuels Soh's ambition'. Print Edition | Subscribe