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Marathoner Soh Rui Yong excluded from SEA Games line-up; says he will not appeal against decision

SINGAPORE — National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has again been left out of the team competing in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but the controversial athlete said he will not be appealing against the decision.

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong excluded from SEA Games line-up; says he will not appeal against decision
National marathoner Soh Rui Yong (pictured) will not be competing at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • Despite qualifying with a new national record, marathoner Soh Rui Yong has been excluded from the 2022 Southeast Asian Games line-up 
  • Soh said he will not be appealing against the decision
  • The Singapore National Olympic Council said it rejected Soh's nomination because his conduct and behaviour was "unbecoming" of a national athlete
  • Soh slammed the council's statement, saying it was "categorically false" and one that "borders on defamation"

SINGAPORE — National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has again been left out of the team competing in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but the controversial athlete said that he will not be appealing against the decision.

Despite qualifying with a new national record time set last year, the two-time SEA Games gold medallist will not be joining some 330 athletes chosen to represent Singapore at the event to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.

The 30-year-old said on Thursday he understands that the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) objected to the way he had used social media over the past two years and vowed to do some “self-reflecting”, as well as to figure out how to avoid any more controversies at the next major games selection.

I also understand that this decision eventually came down to a vote among the SNOC committee members and it was a split decision,” he told TODAY on Thursday (Feb 17) from London, where he is studying law.

“I’d like to thank those who voted for me. I hope to win the understanding of those who voted against (me), so we will have a better outcome in the future.”

A statement by SNOC, which has the final say in the composition of the team, did not indicate whether or not there was a split vote.

Soh’s latest exclusion from the SEA Games is the latest twist in a long-running dispute with SNOC, which had rejected his nomination for the 2019 SEA Games.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the council said that Soh’s conduct and behaviour was “unbecoming” of an athlete who wishes to represent his country at major games and runs contrary to the requirement of the Olympic Charter to “serve as an example to the sporting youth”.

In 2019, it rejected Soh’s nomination after finding that his attitude and behaviour fell short of its standards.

Since then, the council said, Soh has made no attempt to make amends, correct or apologise for his conduct and behaviour. 

There have been continued and persistent actions by Soh to challenge, mock, threaten and/or disrespect organisations and individuals including the SNOC.
Statement by the Singapore National Olympic Council

“Instead, there have been continued and persistent actions by Soh to challenge, mock, threaten and/or disrespect organisations and individuals including the SNOC.” 

SNOC said that its selection criteria had been conveyed clearly since 2020 to all national sports associations, including the Singapore Athletics (SA), which nominated Soh.

Beyond meeting objective qualifying standards, the criteria also include the athletes’ attitude and behaviour towards coaches, fellow athletes and officials, whether in relation to sporting matters or otherwise. 

Also taken into consideration are their conduct and character, which may affect the reputation, image, values or best interests of the athlete or the sport, and the ability to demonstrate team spirit and work well with teammates and officials.

Soh said on Thursday that he had spoken with SA president Lien Choong Luen before they decided not to lodge an appeal.

He doesn’t think it will fly in the present circumstance. He wants to see what we can do for future games selections,” Soh told TODAY. “ I trust him. All this while, he’s been the one mediating as I’ve tried to make amends with SNOC.”

Still, Soh said he found it “extremely surprising” that SNOC would assert that he had not tried to make amends with the organisation, following their fallout in 2019.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Soh slammed that assertion as “categorically false” and one that “borders on defamation”.

He wrote: “I can confirm that (the) president of SNOC, Tan Chuan-Jin, has blocked me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, for reasons only known to himself. While (it) is well within his rights to block whoever he wants to block, it’s hard to resolve disputes when the leader of the SNOC himself is not open to communication.”

Soh said that he had met with Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, last month to try to mediate the situation.

“I will make it clear here, for SNOC and for everyone else. As far as I’m concerned, any disputes in the past (are) long water under the bridge for me. I’m happy to make amends and resolve matters, but it takes two hands to clap,” he wrote.

“On my part, apologies for any inconveniences that have arisen from my past actions and apologies that Singapore will once again miss out on a marathon gold medal as things stand. Good luck to the rest of the team competing in Vietnam.”

Soh’s clash with SNOC began in 2017 at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when he was warned and threatened with expulsion from the team for repeatedly flouting the council’s rules on promoting personal sponsors on social media. 

The next year, Soh became embroiled in a dispute over an act of sportsmanship purportedly shown by another marathoner Ashley Liew, when Liew allegedly slowed down at the SEA Games men’s marathon final in 2015 in Singapore to allow other runners who ran off course to catch up.

The matter was brought to court and Liew was awarded S$180,000 in damages last year after winning the defamation suit. Soh is appealing against the decision.

Soh is involved in a separate ongoing civil trial after he sued former SA executive director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied for allegedly defamatory statements that Mr Malik made on Facebook after Soh was rejected for the 2019 SEA Games.

Related topics

Soh Rui Yong SEA Games SNOC marathon social media

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