National marathoner Soh Rui Yong clears Singapore Athletics' SEA Games selection criteria test

Soh Rui Yong takes a victory lap after winning the men's marathon in the 28th SEA Games in 2015. Soh has cleared Singapore Athletics' eligibility criteria to qualify for the Games in August.
Soh Rui Yong takes a victory lap after winning the men's marathon in the 28th SEA Games in 2015. Soh has cleared Singapore Athletics' eligibility criteria to qualify for the Games in August. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - National marathoner Soh Rui Yong moved a step closer to defending his gold medal at this year's SEA Games when he passed Singapore Athletics' (SA) eligibility criteria for selection at the Games in August.

Soh clocked 1hr 7min 53sec at the Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon in Japan on Sunday (Feb 5). For the race, he needed to clock below 1:12:30 to earn his spot in the SEA Games men's 42.195km race.

The 25-year-old had met the SEA Games qualifying mark - which was the bronze-medal time of 2:37:10 from the 2015 Games - last year when he clocked 2:24:55 at the Chicago Marathon in October.

But SA's SEA Games selection criteria state that athletes who qualified between Aug 1 and Dec 31 last year must do a "performance test" in any SA-sanctioned competition this year from Jan 1 to May 31.

Soh, an executive at Sport Singapore, said that he was not too bothered that he fell short of his personal best of 1:07:21 set in 2015.

He said: "I just wanted to get this done. I've been balancing work with my training sessions, and I'm at 70 per cent of what I used to do. But I'm working towards getting back to 100 per cent load nearer to the SEA Games."

Soh will be taking no-pay leave from May to train full time in the United States to gear up for the biennial Games in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 19-31.

If there are more than two athletes who meet the qualifying mark, the two with the fastest times will be nominated to the Singapore National Olympic Council for selection.

Soh said: "I've done more than what is needed (to qualify for the SEA Games). I hope to maintain my training load and keep it consistent."