Joseph Schooling, Amanda Lim among more than 500 Team Singapore athletes picked for SEA Games

Team Singapore at the opening ceremony of the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi. More than 500 athletes will represent Singapore at the SEA Games in Cambodia in 2023. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - National swimmers Joseph Schooling, Teong Tzen Wei and Amanda Lim, who were embroiled in a drug controversy in 2022, are among the 517 athletes in 27 sports who have been shortlisted for the May 5-17 SEA Games in Cambodia.

Former silat world champion Sheik Ferdous Sheik Alau’ddin, who made headlines on Monday after he was charged with drink driving, is also part of the selected Games contingent.

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selection committee, which is chaired by its president Tan Chuan-Jin, met on Monday to consider the nominations for the Games, with the list announced a day later.

In a statement to The Straits Times on Tuesday morning, Sport Singapore said it is aware of Ferdous’ drink-driving charge. 

Its spokesman added: “As a spexScholar and Singapore’s sport ambassador, Ferdous is expected to uphold the highest standards of conduct in and out of the competition arena. 

“SportSG takes a very serious view of the matter and will conduct an internal review after the court proceedings have been completed, and determine the appropriate actions to be taken thereafter.”

Olympic champion Schooling – who has 29 golds at the SEA Games – Commonwealth Games silver medallist Teong and Lim had in 2022 admitted to have had consumed a controlled drug overseas.

The trio’s support was suspended by Sport Singapore and they were banned from national team training for a month after an internal review.

They were also fined by the SNOC, with the council then stating that Schooling would be debarred from selection for all major games for two years, should he be found to have consumed drugs prohibited by Singapore law or breach any rule of the SNOC code of conduct in future.

While familiar names from badminton, football, swimming and table tennis are among the 517 shortlisted athletes, two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong – who met the qualifying mark for the 5,000m and 10,000m – is not on the list.

When queried on Soh’s omission, the SNOC said that the 31-year-old had not been nominated by Singapore Athletics (SA). The national sports association did not respond to ST’s queries by press time.

Soh said on Tuesday that he understands that SNOC and SA are still in discussion on this matter and that “the full team hasn’t been finalised yet”.

He added: “I fully appreciate SA’s support on the matter in putting me in a position to represent Singapore at the SEA Games again.

“Whether or not I’m at the SEA Games, though, I love this sport and will always be training every day to be a better athlete and person than I was before.”

Soh has clashed with the SNOC on several occasions over issues, including the athlete’s breach of regulations regarding the promotion of personal sponsors at the 2017 SEA Games. He was not selected for the 2019 and delayed 2021 editions, after the SNOC took issue with his “non-performance related standards and qualities such as attitude and behaviour”.

This will be the first time that Cambodia will host the biennial Games, where there will be 38 sports. Competitors will take part in a record 608 events, with the previous high coming in 2019 in the Philippines when there were 530.

New and unfamiliar sports such as jet ski, obstacle race and demonstration sport teqball, which is played on a curved table combining elements of football and table tennis, have been included.

There is also a slew of martial arts such as karate, judo, taekwondo, pencak silat and a group of traditional and local disciplines such as kun bokator arnis, jujitsu, kick boxing, vovinam and kun khmer.

However, several Olympic sports that had previously brought gold medals for Singapore like shooting, rowing and archery have been omitted.

But water polo, which was dropped from the last Games in Hanoi, makes a return and this gives the Singapore men’s team an opportunity to recapture the SEA Games crown which they relinquished in 2019. Prior to that, Singapore had a 52-year stranglehold on the Games title. 

Floorball and sailing, which won two and six medals respectively at the 2019 edition, will also return. The sailors are not included in SNOC’s list as trials are due to commence only in late January.

At the last edition in Vietnam in 2022, Singapore’s contingent of 424 athletes across 33 sports returned with a haul of 47 gold, 46 silver and 71 bronze medals.

The 2015 edition on home ground remains Singapore’s best performance at the regional affair (84 gold, 73 silver and 102 bronze medals) while the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur (58 gold, 59 silver and 71 bronze medals) is Singapore’s best away Games.

The SNOC said that athletes who have yet to meet the qualifying criteria have until February to meet the selection criteria for the appeals committee to consider.

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