Athletics: Soh Rui Yong earns nomination for SEA Games

Soh Rui Yong had met the qualifying benchmark in March, winning a race at the Singapore Athletics All Comers Meet 2.
Soh Rui Yong had met the qualifying benchmark in March, winning a race at the Singapore Athletics All Comers Meet 2.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Two-time SEA Games marathon winner Soh Rui Yong has been nominated by Singapore Athletics (SA) to represent the nation in the men's 1,500m at the Nov 21-Dec 2 edition in Hanoi.

Soh, 29, announced this in a post on social media on Monday (June 15) night. He had met the qualifying benchmark in March, when he won the 1,500m race at the Singapore Athletics All Comers Meet 2 in 4min 5.19sec. The qualifying mark - which is Thai Yothin Yaprajan's bronze-winning time in the previous edition - is 4:08.90.

SA's notice of nomination to Soh was signed by its vice-president (training and selection) Gary Yeo. However, it also stated that being put forward "does not guarantee selection", with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) making the final decision as it is the body that sets qualification criteria for major multi-sport events such as the Olympics and SEA Games.

Soh told The Straits Times on Tuesday: "The selection criteria is quite black and white. I met it and I was the fastest runner in the qualifying window. But it's definitely nice to see all the training and effort being rewarded with a nomination."

The SNOC selection committee will meet on July 7 to review nominations across all sports but it remains to seen whether Soh will receive the nod for Vietnam.

His nomination for the 2019 Games in the Philippines was rejected by the SNOC's selection committee, who said then that Soh's "attitude and behaviour" in the two years prior fell short of what it expected of national athletes.

The SNOC and Soh had previously clashed on a number of occasions, including before the 2017 SEA Games when he was issued a formal warning by the council over a breach of regulations regarding the promotion of his personal sponsors on social media during the Games. He had also reportedly upset Singapore Athletics sponsor 2XU after cutting holes in his race vest during the marathon final.

Soh's non-selection sparked a debate over whether a potential medallist should be barred from representing the country because of issues that did not pertain to performance, such as an athlete's conduct.

Whether the SEA Games will take place as scheduled is also in question. On June 9, the SEA Games Federation held a meeting involving the region's 11 National Olympic Committees to discuss the status of the year-end event, but no decision was made. The meeting was held after widespread media reports that the Games would be postponed to July next year because of the pandemic.

When asked about the uncertainty, Soh said: "It doesn't affect my preparations. Whether or not the SEA Games go ahead, I will still do what I have to do and train. Life goes on. If the SEA Games go ahead, that would be a bonus."

But he added: "It would be nice for some clarity, for the organising committee to let everyone know as soon as possible because there are athletes and coaches who are planning their year around this."