Soh skips C'wealth Games

Selection criteria delay results in marathoner shifting focus to World Half Marathon C'ship

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong, seen celebrating his gold medal win at this year's SEA Games, has elected not to qualify for the Gold Coast event next April.
National marathoner Soh Rui Yong, seen celebrating his gold medal win at this year's SEA Games, has elected not to qualify for the Gold Coast event next April.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The delay by Singapore Athletics (SA) 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 yesterday 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 will 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 yesterday.

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 Commonwealth Games qualification, Soh 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 focus on competitions that I have control over and will be able to prepare adequately for," he said.

"(There's) no time, it takes months to get ready for a 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 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 75 athletes were yesterday informed that their names were on a "long list" of nominations for the Gold Coast Games, based on 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 is relieved that they have now been informed.

"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, 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 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'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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Soh skips C'wealth Games'. Subscribe