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‘I didn’t see anybody slow down’, says Filipino marathoner of Ashley Liew’s act of sportsmanship at 2015 SEA Games

SINGAPORE — Filipino marathoner Rafael Poliquit has backed up Singaporean runner Soh Rui Yong’s claim that teammate Ashley Liew did not slow down for his rivals after they took a wrong turn during the 2015 SEA Games men’s marathon final.

SINGAPORE — Filipino marathoner Rafael Poliquit has backed up Singaporean runner Soh Rui Yong’s claim that teammate Ashley Liew did not slow down for his rivals after they took a wrong turn during the 2015 SEA Games men’s marathon final.

Poliquit, one of 12 runners in that race, did not finish after pulling out at the 19km mark. The 29-year-old told TODAY via email that he was part of the leading pack that missed the U-turn and went down the wrong path at East Coast Park.

He said he ran 80m along the wrong route before turning back.

“After getting back in the correct direction, I observed that most of us were distracted and our pace slowed down due to the confusion of the route,” he said on Tuesday (Oct 23).

“On my part, I did not see anybody slow down for us.”

Poliquit’s account of the race is similar to those given by other witnesses interviewed by TODAY, and it places a cloud over Liew’s claims in 2015.

Liew, now 31, said then that he found himself in the lead after the U-turn incident, but he “dramatically slowed down” to wait for his rivals to catch up.

The Singaporean runner’s act of sportsmanship was widely publicised and earned him praise from many people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In 2016, Liew was given a special award for sportsmanship by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), and was also awarded the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy by the International Fair Play Committee (CIFP).

But Soh, 27, the SEA Games marathon champion in 2015 and 2017, has since disputed Liew’s account of events at the 2015 race, alleging that the “story is untrue”.

Responding to CIFP’s recent Facebook post on Liew’s act of sportsmanship, Soh said on Sunday that Liew “certainly did not stop or slow down to wait for us”, and that it took at least one to two minutes for the leading runners to catch up with him.

Soh said that there was no evidence of the “supposed act of sportsmanship, apart from Ashley’s own claim”, adding that he he did not raise any alarm three years ago as he felt that his teammate needed a reason to feel better about his performance.

Other witnesses whom TODAY previously spoke to said they did not want to get involved, or had not seen the incident.

Following Soh's comments on Sunday, two witnesses who saw the incident at East Coast Park in 2015 told TODAY that they did not see Liew, or any other runner, slowing down for the others after the U-turn blunder.

Athletics coach Steven Quek, who was there at the U-turn point, said there was a commotion after the leading race pack went the wrong way.

“Everyone was shouting and that alerted the guys in front. By then, the people behind were in the lead,” said Quek, 50, who was previously Soh’s coach.

“If you ask me if I saw anybody stopping to wait for the leader, I didn’t see that.”

His account of events that day was also echoed by university track coach Jordan Schilit, who was Soh’s coach then. The 28-year-old told TODAY: “Rui Yong was in the leading group that took the wrong turn. Ashley took the correct turn and did not make an effort to slow down.

“All I know is that nobody tried to slow down to let the group catch up, and it took some time for them to do so.”

Schilit recalled that he had helped Soh count down the time required for him to catch up to the other runners after the incident.

He added: “It’s a bummer that this has become a heated topic, because they are both great guys. I’m all about sportsmanship, but it’s got to be true.”

Liew’s athlete management team, ONEathlete Team, said on Sunday that Soh’s allegations had “no material basis”, as it questioned the marathon champion’s motives for making the claim.

The SNOC also stood by its decision to nominate Liew for the award, stressing that his act of sportsmanship “was verified”, and that they “remain proud to have given him” the accolade in 2016.

TODAY has reached out to ONEathlete Team for further comment.

 

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