SEA Games marathon winner Soh Rui Yong lodges protest over prize money

Soh Rui Yong at the 2017 SEA Games. (Photo: Stanley Cheah/Sport Singapore)
Soh Rui Yong at the 2017 SEA Games. (Photo: Stanley Cheah/Sport Singapore)

National athlete Soh Rui Yong, the reigning champion of the SEA Games marathon, has lodged a protest with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) objecting to giving 20 per cent of his SEA Games prize money to Singapore Athletics (SA).

Under the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme, athletes receive prize money for winning medals at major games such as the South East Asian Games, Commonwealth, Asian or Olympic Games.

An individual gold medal at the SEA Games gets S$10,000. It is mandatory for all athletes to give 20 per cent of their prize money to their National Sports Association (NSA) for the association’s training and development.

Giving back a cut of the prize money to the NSA “should not be taken for granted”, said Soh in a Facebook post on Saturday (16 Sept).

He wrote, “Common sense dictates that this 20 per cent is meant as a gesture of goodwill to the NSA for helping the athlete achieve the success at the SEA Games, while also acting as a future investment in development.

“For the 2017 SEA Games, SA has not only failed to adequately help our athletes, but they have also hindered the performance of several athletes with continued infighting, turmoil, and poor administration.

“The lack of concrete development plans for the future also cast serious doubts over the future of the sport. As such, I believe that Singapore Athletics is under-deserving of the $2,000 (20 per cent of $10,000) that SNOC takes out of my MAP award money to give to them.”

In preparation of defending his marathon title at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Soh took no-pay leave from his job for a training stint in Arizona.

Singapore Athletics president Ho Mun Cheong told TODAY on Sunday that he has no issues with Soh keeping the 20 per cent cut. “As long as SSI, SNOC agree, I have no objections,” he was quoted as saying. Politicking and in-fighting has plagued the association since earlier this year – to the extent that SNOC and Sport Singapore had to intervene and set up a committee to help manage the SEA Games athletics squad.

After winning only two out of 45 gold medals on offer in the SEA Games athletics competition in the marathon and high jump, SSI chief Toh Boon Yi called out the association, saying that SA needs to “go back to the drawing board”.

In response to media queries, an SNOC spokesperson said the 20 per cent contribution is mandatory. According to SNOC, “The SNOC is guided by established terms and conditions agreed with our sponsor for MAP. It is mandatory to disburse 20 per cent of the MAP awards to the respective NSAs. The 20 per cent contribution is intended to help the NSAs and their athletes for future training and development of the sport. While we acknowledge that there are currently issues in Singapore Athletics (SA) to be ironed out, SA did support their athletes financially to prepare for the SEA Games.

“The support to the athletes is even more crucial now as two major Games loom. The important thing here is to ensure that SA is supported and guided on the task at hand and use the resources available wisely to support its athletes. The SNOC and SportSG will work closely with SA to ensure that they continue to support their athletes in the lead-up to the upcoming major Games.”

Note: This story was updated on 19 September to include SNOC’s response

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