SINGAPORE - Top national marathoner Soh Rui Yong on Tuesday (Feb 22) penned an apology to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in a bid to "resolve our differences and move forward in the best interests of Singapore sports".
The 30-year-old was denied a place at the May 12-23 Hanoi SEA Games by an SNOC selection committee last Wednesday, with a spokesman saying it had rejected his nomination as his conduct "fell short of the standards of attitude and behaviour the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to".
This was also the reason the SNOC had stated in 2019, when it excluded Soh from the list of athletes that went to the SEA Games in the Philippines.
On both occasions, Soh, the national record holder in the marathon and SEA Games champion in 2015 and 2017, had comfortably cleared the qualification time for the event.
However, the SNOC and Soh had clashed on a number of occasions over issues such as the athlete's breach of regulations regarding the promotion of personal sponsors at the 2017 SEA Games and later, his initial objection to its mandatory requirement to donate 20 per cent of his $10,000 cash payout as reward for his win back to SA for training and development.
After the SNOC excluded him from the Singapore contingent for the Hanoi Games, Soh said he would not appeal against the decision, and vowed to do "self reflecting".
On Tuesday, he said in posts over his social media platforms that he has fully recognised that athletes representing Singapore should do their best to serve as role models to youth.
"In my view, that includes standing up for what is right, no matter the cost. However, I acknowledge that I could have handled certain disputes in the past differently.
"I could have been more respectful and sensitive in my approach. For that I apologise and will do better," he said.
He stressed that the apology was "not to beg for a place on the SEA Games team" and that it was "purely because I recognise I've not handled certain disputes well in the past... (and) endeavour to do better and grow into a better person in the future".
Soh added he hoped the focus would now turn to the 330 Singaporean athletes who were selected for the Hanoi Games.
"The beautiful thing about sports is that it unites us and should not be a divide instead. I hope we can be united as one as Team Singapore fights to chase the dreams we have all worked so hard for," he said.
Aside from the SEA Games, Soh has also met the qualifying standard for the marathon at September's Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, the first Singaporean to do so.
However, whether he gets to compete at the Asiad will also hinge on the decision of SNOC's selection committee, which is chaired by SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an SNOC spokesman said: "Our attention has been drawn to Soh’s post and apology to SNOC on his Facebook account.
"We hope he fulfils what he sets out to do, and wish him well in his future endeavours."
Shortly after he posted his apology, Soh shared a series of memes on his Instagram account as stories – the first of which was captioned “Ok here come the memes...” – that made reference to his exclusion by the SNOC.
Besides his clashes with the SNOC, he has also been involved in other high-profile controversies such as his legal dispute with ex-national teammate Ashley Liew.
Liew had sued Soh in June 2019 over five statements he made about an act of fair play by Liew during the 2015 SEA Games marathon.
Last September, the District Court ordered Soh to pay Liew $180,000 for defamation, a sum which comprises $120,000 in general damages and $60,000 in aggravated damages.
Soh has launched an appeal in the High Court against the judgment.
After the District Court decided on the damages awarded to Liew, Soh started a crowdfunding appeal. In an update on his blog dated Oct 20, he shared that $80,000 had been raised from 596 donors.
On Monday, Liew, a 35-year-old chiropractor who is no longer a national runner, was awarded a bill of costs amounting to just under $126,000.