National marathoner Soh Rui Yong will not attempt to qualify for 2018 Commonwealth Games

Soh said he was 'disappointed that it had taken so long for the selection criteria for next year's Commonwealth Games to be published.
Soh said he was 'disappointed that it had taken so long for the selection criteria for next year's Commonwealth Games to be published.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The delay in making known a clear track and field selection criteria for next year's Commonwealth Games has led to SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong deciding not to attempt qualification for the April 4-15 event.

The 26-year-old, who revealed he had made his decision privately last week, explained on Tuesday (Nov 14) that he was "disappointed" that it had taken so long for the selection criteria to be published.

The qualifying window started on April 15 this year and end on Feb 11 next year, but the period of the window and selection criteria were published on SA's website only at about 5.30pm on Tuesday.

Soh, who will instead focus on preparing for the World Half Marathon Championships in March, told The Straits Times: "It makes it very difficult for coaches and athletes to develop a proper plan to qualify for and then peak for the Commonwealth Games.

"The lack of training structure and proper periodisation is a large reason why we have always failed to deliver in athletics, and last-minute selection policies like these don't help.

Wishing his team-mates luck in aiming for the Commonwealth Games qualification, the 26-year-old acknowledged that making the decision had been difficult.

"Representing my country is always an honour. But I no longer wish to entertain such uncertainty, I will now focus on competitions that I have control over and hence will be able to prepare adequately for," he said.

"(There's) no time now given that it takes months to get ready for a good marathon as there are only five months left to qualify, and then race."

SA president Ho Mun Cheong told ST that the delay in making the selection criteria public was a result of an internal miscommunication.

"Some of the clauses in the criteria took longer to finalise as we needed to clarify that it was phrased clearly," said Ho.

He added that he would respect Soh's decision not to attempt qualification for the Commonwealth Games, saying: "I wish him all the best at the World Half Marathon Championships."

Some national athletes, whom ST spoke to before the selection criteria for the Commonwealth Games was published, admitted they were frustrated that a clear set of criteria had not been made known to them.

ST understands that 75 athletes were informed on Tuesday afternoon that their names were on a "long list" of nominations for the Gold Coast Games, based on their performances this year.

National sprint hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad noted that the need for clear selection criteria was something that athletes had been calling for for a long time, and welcomed being notified of the recent updates.

"We can now have ease of mind as we gear our training towards preparing for the Commonwealth Games now that we have been nominated for the long list," she said.

"While it is comforting as we can better plan for the coming season, there is only a short window left for the qualifying period which makes things challenging for all athletes and coaches."

National pole vault record holder Rachel Yang met the Commonwealth Games qualifying distance of 3.80m at the Thailand Open in June, where she jumped 3.91m.

Despite having met the mark, the 35-year-old admitted she had been unsure if this was sufficient as she did know know if any other selection criteria would be introduced.

"But my fellow athletes and coach were telling me not to worry because I've already met the mark, so my focus is to prepare for the Games," she said.

"I'm very excited because I've recovered from injury and I'm already starting to work on the things I didn't have a chance to work on at the SEA Games, so I'm looking forward to it."