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Marathoner Ashley Liew gets prestigious award for sportsmanship

SINGAPORE — It was an act of sportsmanship that marathoner Ashley Liew did not expect to be rewarded for. But come next month, the Singaporean runner will be boarding a plane for the 2015 World Fair Play Awards Ceremony in Budapest, Hungary, where he will receive the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy on Oct 15.

Ashley Liew. TODAY file photo

Ashley Liew. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — It was an act of sportsmanship that marathoner Ashley Liew did not expect to be rewarded for. But come next month, the Singaporean runner will be boarding a plane for the 2015 World Fair Play Awards Ceremony in Budapest, Hungary, where he will receive the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy on Oct 15.

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) announced on Friday (Sept 16) that the 29-year-old has been awarded the accolade in the category of “Act of Fair Play” by the International Committee for Fairplay – which recognises acts of fair play by sports athletes or teams.

Liew is the first Singaporean to be recognised for this award, named after the founder of the modern Olympic Games.

At last year’s SEA Games, which was held in Singapore, Liew found himself about 50m in the lead in the men’s marathon final after his 11 rivals went down the wrong path.

But instead of capitalising on the situation, the Singaporean runner chose to wait for them, eventually placing eighth in 2:44:02.

Liew’s actions earned kudos from many Singaporeans and fellow athletes, and he was recognised by the SNOC this year with a special award for sportsmanship at the Singapore Sports Awards.

Liew joins a special group of athletes who have earned similar honours for their acts of selflessness and sportsmanship, including runners Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin.

At last month’s Rio Olympic Games, Hamblin tripped and fell during the women’s 5,000m heats, bringing down D’Agostino with her. Instead of racing on, the American pulled Hamblin back up on her feet, and both women later helped each other to the finish line.

Past winners of the award include the late Portuguese football great Eusebio, as well as Ukrainian pole-vault legend Sergey Bubka.

Liew said on Friday that he was “humbled” to be in such company.

“It is humbling to have received such a monumental international award when all I did was follow my heart during the marathon,” said Liew who is currently based at the Sherman College Chiropractic Health Centre in the United States.

"I was shocked to hear that I have received the award from the International Fair Play Committee. To follow in the footsteps of Olympians such as Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin, who have displayed exemplary sportsmanship in Rio, is truly humbling.

"I have been inculcated with the mantra which says 'to give, love, and serve out of one's own abundance without expectation of reward'. Whether I am serving my chiropractic patients or running an important race, I never go in with expectations. Thus I would not have come close to imagining that a seemingly insignificant act, one that I initially did not want to go public, would spread from Sunday School teachings in Singapore to an award ceremony in Europe."

He added: "I have to keep my focus for the Berlin Marathon on Sept 25th. Then I will look forward to flying back to Europe in time for the award ceremony in Budapest on Oct 15; I wish I could celebrate it there with my father, coach, and chiropractor!"

SNOC Secretary-General Chris Chan said: “We congratulate Ashley on receiving the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy and for being the first Singaporean to be recognised by the Committee.

“This recognition from the International Committee for Fairplay has demonstrated that Ashley’s honest act of sportsmanship has indeed struck a chord with not only Singaporeans but also with like-minded individuals internationally.

“We hope values and acts of sportsmanship will continue to thrive in our community.”

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