Singapore — Back-to-back SEA Games winner Soh Rui Yong has been in the spotlight recently because of his exclusion from this year’s games, and his refusal to back down from the issue.
The marathoner did not make it to this year’s SEA Games because he “displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to,” according to the Singapore National Olympic Council.
Mr Soh has since taken the battle online, hitting back at Singapore Athletics for not contesting the SNOC’s decision, and blocking him from its WhatsApp chats and social media pages.
The marathoner who turned 28 on August 6, Tuesday, voiced his version of the story on his blog runsohfast.com in a post entitled “My 28th Birthday Message to my supporters, Ashley Liew and SNOC.”
First, he thanked everyone who supported him in what he called “the battle for truth and justice,” especially those who have signed the petition to reinstate him in the line-up for the SEA Games.
But he quickly got to the point of why he wrote the post in the first place, saying the purpose of this blog post “is to clarify certain facts and bring us back to focus on the main point of discussion: Ashley Liew’s tale of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games Marathon.”
Addressing the SNOC, he wrote, “Now, I will address the Singapore National Olympic Council:Let’s not kid ourselves.”
“Everything that’s happened the past few days results from me speaking the truth on the Ashley Liew sportsmanship tale.
“as far as I’m aware – the threats from you, via Singapore Athletics Executive Director Malik Aljunied, that I would be taken off the team only started after.”
Runner Ashley Liew got an award for sportsmanship after the 28th South East Asian Games 2015, wherein poor visibility, he took a wrong turn which gave him an unfair advantage. Mr Liew waited for the runners instead of going ahead, an act perceived to have cost him a place in the race.
Mr Soh, who won the event, objected to the story via a Facebook post, calling it untrue. The argument escalated into legal filings, and Mr Soh called out the SNOC for failing “to remain neutral and investigate on the truth.”
Since the SNOC never specified the exact nature of the objectionable attitude and behaviour that got him excluded from this year’s SEA Games, the marathoner listed what these may be, and then debunked each one.
- Protesting the blackout period rule which I felt was unjust to athletes with personal sponsorship commitments to uphold and promoting personal sponsors on social media during the blackout period. That issue was dealt with in 2017 (I received a warning letter) and never mentioned again until now suddenly.
- Cutting holes in my racing singlet to deal with the heat and humidity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the 2017 SEA Games Marathon. Not sure why this makes up a bad attitude or conduct since it is not against competition rules and is done often by elite athletes on the world stage. Maybe our sports officials need to wake up and get with modern times and modern science? In any case, (the incident was) never mentioned again until now.
- The protesting of making my 20% donation of my $10,000 cash reward for a SEA games gold medal to Singapore Athletics after the 2017 SEA Games. This was settled in 2017 with me eventually donating the 20% under protest.
- Calling the SNOC biased and failing to ‘properly’ investigate the Ashley Liew sportsmanship tale.
The marathoner then made a list of birthday requests, showing that he is eager to put these issues behind him. First, he asked that “certain sporting leaders, especially those in SNOC to, “Come to your senses – it’s ok to be wrong and apologise. It’s not ok to continue insisting that you’re right without investigating into issues being pointed out.”
He asked his supporters to keep politics out of the issue, as some had taken aim at the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), since the President of the SNOC, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, is a PAP member.
Third, the marathoner offered out an olive branch to fellow runner Mr Liew. “If you are willing, I welcome you to get in contact with me so we can meet up and talk this through. I do want to figure out why exactly you said you slowed down to wait for us, and why I didn’t see what you claimed to have done. Perhaps we can work it out without going to the courts, or this matter getting any uglier for Singapore sports.”
In the end, Mr Soh said, he represents not the SNOC, but Singapore.
“Having already made history for Singapore by winning the SEA Games Marathon back-to-back, I look forward to exploring my marathon running beyond the SEA Games and hope that one day I can achieve success at a higher level Singaporeans can be proud of.
If there’s one thing marathon running and any of my life mentors have taught me, it is to fight the good fight, and never give up till you finish the race.”/ TISG