SINGAPORE — A national marathoner accused of lying about his act of sportsmanship during the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) games had sought to glorify himself and blow his own trumpet, claimed his opponent’s lawyer on Wednesday (2 September).
Singapore athlete and chiropractor Ashley Liew had confided in a close friend with the intention of having his friend glorify his actions, argued fellow athlete Soh Rui Yong’s lawyer Clarence Lun on the second day of the civil trial. Liew also failed to correct versions of events that had come out in his friend’s Facebook post and the media, Lun added.
Liew is taking Soh to court over statements that the latter made which accused Liew of lying about slowing down during a marathon in order to give his competitors – who had made a wrong turn – a chance to catch up to him.
According to Liew’s version of events on 7 June 2015, he had slowed down after a u-turn at the 5.5km mark to wait for 11 other male participants, including Soh, who had mistakenly missed the turn. Soh had claimed that Liew did not make such a move.
After the alleged act went public, Liew was awarded the Special Award for Sportsmanship by the Singapore National Olympic Council and the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play trophy by the International Fair Play Committee (IFPC). However, Soh later made several statements online disputing the act.
On the second day of Liew’s cross examination by Lun, the lawyer sought to show the “inconsistencies” in Liew’s testimony in court and the interviews that he had given to the media previously.
Lun referred to Liew’s evidence that he slowed down within a period of two-and-a half minutes – or an estimated distance of between 500m and 700m – after the u-turn point at the 5.5km mark.
Dramatic slow down: Liew
Setting out the details of the incident, Liew said that after the u-turn point, he had slowed down and craned his neck to look at the race marshals. He recalled that there were at least two with their mouths wide open in shock that the other runners had gone the wrong way.
“I supposed that they would be expecting (the runners to take the) u-turn but 11 runners had missed it… I kept craning my neck to see the marshals, to see 11 runners charging in (the) opposite direction,” said Liew.
“I recall it took about three seconds for those two marshals to react – give or take – to start shouting for the other runners to turn back. There was confusion in that phase, I would not consider that phase my act of fair play yet,” he added.
At a distance of between 50m and 70m away from the u-turn point, Liew said he “dramatically” slowed down from a racing to jogging pace in order to see where the other runners were and allow them to catch up. This was for a period of around five to eight seconds, Liew estimated.
Cambodian marathoner Kuniaki Takizaki then caught up with him about 300m away from the u-turn point and Liew gestured for Takizaki to overtake him. Liew then picked up the pace.
Around one minute and some 400m later, the rest of the runners drew level with Liew who then gave a thumbs up to the runners on his left and right before resuming his normal marathon pace.
However, Lun said that Liew’s alleged act of slowing down would not have resulted in Liew running 700m in two-and-a-half minutes, or Liew’s average timing of 3.53 minutes per kilometre.
Asked why Liew had not given these facts of his timing to his confidante, fellow chiropractor Kelvin Ng, Liew said he did not feel obliged to give the full story and a “step-by-step recollection” to his friend. Ng had then written about the incident in a Facebook post.
Lun then said, “There is only one hypothesis to this, you are looking for Kelvin Ng to glorify yourself... you are looking for a catalyst to fan your flame and fame... You are looking for someone to give you that fame that you seek and desire for out in the open.”
Liew disagreed with all the statements.
Pointing out a news article that described Liew as “slowing down to a crawl”, Lun asked Liew why the marathoner had not corrected the reporter during the interview.
Liew replied that the media was free to give its opinions and sensationalise, which was expected.
“They sensationalised because you were dramatic, you said that you slowed down dramatically to wait for them,” replied Lun.
Days after the event, Liew also went on a talk show to give his account of what happened, with the show’s host also describing Liew as slowing down to a crawl. Liew had also failed to correct the host then, said Lun.
To this, Liew said he did not feel a need to correct a seasoned presenter on live TV.
Differentiating between dramatically slowing down and a crawling pace, Liew said that compared to a racing pace, jogging could be perceived to be a crawling pace. Liew maintained that he had no control over the perception of others.
Lun then asked why Liew did not bother to correct the “fraud” that he had slowed to a crawl and Liew replied, “I did not feel the need to address that.”
Lun replied, “That was your own personal act of self-glorification and was not an act of fair play… you self-glorified and painted a saint(ly) picture of yourself for the public.” Liew disagreed.
The trial resumes on Thursday with Liew still being cross-examined by the defendant.
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