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Deja vu as SNOC excludes Soh Rui Yong from Asian Games line-up

SINGAPORE – A month after his return to action for Singapore at the Cambodia SEA Games, distance runner Soh Rui Yong is once again out of the national fold and will miss the Sept 23-Oct 8 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

On Thursday, Soh, who won the 10,000m silver in Phnom Penh and met the Asian Games qualifying mark in the same distance, was not included in the Singapore National Olympic Council’s (SNOC) latest list of successful appeals for the Games.

Responding to queries, an SNOC spokesman said that its appeals committee met on Wednesday and considered Singapore Athletics’ (SA) nomination for Soh and decided not to select him.

The spokesman added: “The committee found Mr Soh to have failed to honour commitments which he had provided to the SNOC, including on occasions following his participation at the Cambodia 2023 SEA Games. In particular, Mr Soh continued to make disparaging and derisive remarks about others in the public domain. This behaviour does not commensurate with his apology given, undermines the sincerity of his commitment to avoid posting controversial content on social media, and renders his assurance to conduct himself in a more constructive, mature and professional manner hollow.

“It is unfortunate that notwithstanding efforts made to support and rehabilitate him, the committee is not satisfied that he has changed for the better to earn selection for the Asian Games.”

The Straits Times understands that SNOC had sent a long list to SA detailing various comments that Soh had made on social media and to the press from March to May, including a podcast interview with local comedy brand Ministry of Funny.

When contacted, two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh said: “I am focused on training well and building on the positive momentum we managed to establish at the SEA Games. Should I eventually be selected, I am confident I’ll be in shape to break the 31 minute barrier for 10,000m at the Asian Games.”

SA president Lien Choong Luen added: “We have reached out to SNOC while considering how to move forward constructively. Though we are disappointed, we understand their reasons for the decision.”

In March, Soh ended a six-year absence from major Games when his return was approved by a special appeals committee. This was after several clashes with SNOC that began in 2017, which eventually led to his omission from the 2019 and 2021 SEA Games.

The 31-year-old was also not on the initial list of Asian Games athletes issued in April 2022, before the Asiad was postponed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the SEA Games in Cambodia, Soh finished fourth in the men’s 5,000m final and ended Singapore’s 40-year wait for a Games medal in the men’s 10,000m when he clinched a silver, setting a national record in the process.

The Singaporean runner finished in 31min 10.7sec behind Indonesia’s Rikki Marthin Luther Simbolon (31:08.85). During the final at the Morodok Techo National Stadium, he offered his own drink to Simbolon after the Indonesian missed his – the act went viral as netizens praised Soh for his sportsmanship.