Sports

Liew shows what real class is

Liew shows what real class is
Singapore's Ashley Liew. Photo: Ernest Chua
In act of sportsmanship, marathon man waited for rivals who took wrong route
Published: 4:16 AM, June 10, 2015

SINGAPORE — It was a decision that could have cost him a SEA Games medal, but Singapore marathon runner Ashley Liew has no regrets in slowing down to almost a crawl to allow his fellow competitors, who had mistakenly followed the wrong route, to recover.

At one point during the early stages of Sunday’s 42.195km race, Liew suddenly found himself leading the 12-strong field after his rivals took the wrong path. But instead of taking advantage of his lead, which was about 50m, the Singaporean decided to wait for them.

Liew, 28, eventually finished eighth in 2hrs 44min 02secs. The marathon was won by compatriot Soh Rui Yong in 2:34.56, ahead of silver medallist Boothung Srisung (2:35.09) of Thailand and Vietnam’s Nguyen Thanh Hoang, who settled for the bronze (2:37.10).

The incident had gone almost unnoticed, and yesterday, Liew told TODAY that his gesture of sportsmanship had been inspired by British Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, who waited for his competitors to catch up during the 2012 Tour de France after their tyres had been punctured by nails and tacks on the road in what was believed to be an act of sabotage by rivals.

“I found myself in pole position. I looked back and all 11 of them were not there, and I dramatically slowed down to wait for them,” Liew told TODAY.

“I would not have felt comfortable taking advantage of the situation as I am a big fan of sportsmanship. In fact, I was sharing with the other athletes how important sportsmanship is.”

Liew, coached by Murugiah Rameshon — who set the national record of 2:24.22 at the 1995 SEA Games in Chiang Mai — added: “It is not always about the medals, but also the things you do in between.”

Liew, who spent 41 days at the world-famous High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya to prepare for the SEA Games, struggled to finish the race as he had suffered injuries to both his hamstrings.

But spurred on by the memory of his late mother, who passed away in 2010 after battling colon cancer for five years, Liew managed to not only display the act of class but also persevered in finishing the race, which took place on what would have been his mother’s 61st birthday.

“I did that (waiting for his competitors) in a manner that my mum would have done. I think that my mum would be very proud of me. Every moment of my race was a tribute to her,” he said.

Although his competitors may not have thanked him for slowing down, Liew, whose personal best in the marathon is 2:32.12 which he set at the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in January, simply brushed it off. He recalled how Soh also showed the same sportsmanship by waiting for him during the 2011 Army Half-Marathon after he had fallen.

Said Liew: “It happens. When things are fast and furious in the race, you don’t really pay attention to what’s going on, and I don’t make a big fuss out of it.”