Athletics: Wild card criteria adjusted

Mok Ying Ren.
Mok Ying Ren.PHOTO: ST FILE, SINGSOC/ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS
Soh Rui Yong.
Soh Rui Yong.PHOTO: ST FILE, SINGSOC/ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

Sprinter Yap and hurdler Ang in running for Rio pick, athletics body to decide by Sunday

Singapore Athletics (SA) will resolve the hotly debated wild card issue for next month's Olympic Games in a matter of days, with a nomination finalised by Sunday.

The news comes shortly after new management was voted in at Monday's annual general meeting, and on a day where two of the sport's most prominent athletes crossed swords over the issue.

The Straits Times understands that tweaks have been made to the selection criteria, which was decided by the previous management late last year. It will now depend on International Association of Athletic Federations' (IAAF) points system as reference.

SA vice-president (training and selection) G. Balasekaran said yesterday: "There must be some objective criteria and that's where we are now. IAAF points will be the overriding criteria, but we will also look at other factors like how close the athlete is to the qualifying mark."

A decision will be made by Sunday night and the name submitted to the Singapore National Olympic Council for approval on Monday.

Balasekaran declined to reveal names, on the basis that anyone could still post a result until then to be in contention, but hinted the front runner is someone who has had notable performances of late.

LET'S BE TACTFUL

Rui Yong is a good runner and he can say how well he's doing all he wants, but when you put others down to make yourself look better, it's not very nice. He could have used more tact.

MOK YING REN, 2013 SEA Games marathon champion.

LOOK AT MULTIPLE FACTORS

I never played down the achievements of Edmund or Chen Xiang. I simply said that breaking national records alone doesn't mean you are the best choice for the wild card.

SOH RUI YONG, 2015 SEA Games marathon champion.

Sprinter Calvin Kang is believed to be top-ranked on IAAF points currently, but will not be eligible as he had previously gone to the 2008 Beijing Games on the same ticket.

Timothee Yap, who last week posted a personal best in the 100m, and hurdler Ang Chen Xiang would likely be the next contenders.

Wildcard entries are available to countries that do not have athletes qualifying on merit for the Olympics. In Singapore's case, one berth for the men is up for grabs.

SA has traditionally awarded wild cards based on the IAAF scoring table, which awards points based on an athlete's performance in each event. However, it changed tack late last year, putting emphasis instead on national record holders.

Many athletes were not convinced by either criteria, with marathoner Soh Rui Yong one of the most vocal and critical.

The SEA Games gold medallist hit out last week at SA officials' decision to use national records as the primary criteria, which would have made race walker Edmund Sim the favourite. Soh argued that the wild card should not be "wasted" on those not as well-equipped for Rio.

It drew a strongly-worded response yesterday from fellow marathoner Mok Ying Ren, who himself attempted unsuccessfully for four years to qualify for the Rio Games.

In a lengthy open letter posted on his website, Mok called Soh out for a lack of respect for fellow athletes, adding that an athlete recovering from injury and running pain-free just two weeks ago should not be asking to be given the wild card.

He also said that Soh's marathon personal best of 2hr 26min 1sec clocked at the California International Marathon in December 2014 was done outside the Olympic qualifying window and on a downhill course that cannot be considered for Olympic qualification.

Mok, an orthopaedic surgery resident, told The Straits Times that he struggled to post the letter, having drafted it last week. He said: "Rui Yong is a good runner and he can say how well he's doing all he wants, but when you put others down to make yourself look better, it's not very nice. He could have used more tact."

In response, Soh said: "I never played down the achievements of Edmund or Chen Xiang. I simply said that breaking national records alone doesn't mean you are the best choice for the wild card...

"I don't know what (Mok's) getting at."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'Wild card criteria adjusted'. Print Edition | Subscribe