Marathoner Soh Rui Yong in shock omission as SNOC selects 585 athletes for SEA Games

Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong winning the men's marathon race at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. (PHOTO: Stanley Cheah/SportSG)

SINGAPORE — Team Singapore will be sending its biggest away contingent for the upcoming SEA Games in the Philippines – 585 athletes competing in 49 sports.

But it will leave behind a two-time defending champion, after rejecting marathoner Soh Rui Yong’s nomination.

The shock omission came as the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) announced on Thursday (1 August) a provisional list of athletes going for the biennial Games, after its selection committee met to consider the nominations put forth by the various national sports associations.

And it has rejected the nomination put forward by Singapore Athletics (SA) for Soh’s participation at the Games, which will be held in the cities of Clark, Manila and Subic from 30 November to 11 December.

It said in a media release on Thursday, “Since the 2017 SEA Games, there have been numerous instances where Soh has displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to, considering that they are held up and seen as representatives of the country and as examples to our sporting youth.

“As such, the SNOC has decided to reject SA’s nomination for his national representation at the 2019 SEA Games.”

At loggerheads with SNOC

The 27-year-old Soh – who won the men’s marathon gold at both the 2015 and 2017 Games – has been at loggerheads with SNOC on more than one occasion.

Ahead of his winning run at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Games, Soh was given a formal warning by the SNOC over a breach of regulations regarding the promotion of personal sponsors on social media during the Games.

In April this year, the SNOC served Soh a legal letter demanding that he retract allegations against fellow marathoner Ashley Liew over an act of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games. For the act, the organisation nominated Liew for the Pierre de Coubertin accolade, an international sportsmanship award.

It later said it reserved its rights against Soh, who had continued to criticise the council on social media for backing Liew.

On Thursday night, Soh posted a Facebook post which said, “I'm disappointed that SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin and his team have chosen to behave in such a petty manner.

“This is akin to primary school playground politics where kids go, ‘I don't friend you already", just because you say something they don't like.

“I consider winning medals for my country at SEA Games to be a national service. Since I no longer am bound to this duty, I look forward to exploring my potential at other marathons I've always wanted to race at, such as the Boston Marathon.

“I wish all my athletics team-mates all the best of luck in Manila and will be rooting for them always.”

Mainstays as well as debutants in contingent

Meanwhile, the 585 athletes who have been approved by SNOC to participate in the SEA Games will exceed 2017’s 560-strong contingent. During that Games edition, the athletes won a record away haul of 58 golds, 59 silvers and 71 bronzes.

The selected athletes include mainstays such as Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen (both swimming), Peter Gilchrist (billiards), Feng Tianwei (table tennis) and the national water polo team.

There will also be debuting athletes in new sports. SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan said, “Team Singapore athletes will be making their debut in these new sports: breaking (dancesport), esports, beach handball, ju-jitsu, kurash, sambo, skateboarding, surfing and underwater hockey.”

There could be more Singapore athletes to be selected, as those who have yet to meet the qualifying criteria have until 27 August to meet the selection target of at least a third-place finish at the Southeast Asian level.

There will be a total of 530 events contested in a record 56 sports at this year’s SEA Games.

Other Singapore stories:

New $12M Communities of Care Fund to benefit 120,000 vulnerable individuals by 2023

E-scooter shop owner accused of riding overweight device at 'very high speed' on road

4 key issues to consider regarding offensive 'brownface' E-Pay ad