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SEA Games 2023: Two-time marathon champ Soh Rui Yong wins silver in 10,000m

PHNOM PENH – Competing in scorching 35 deg C heat, Singapore’s Soh Rui Yong ran his hottest 10,000m race to break his national record and win a SEA Games silver medal on Thursday.

At the Morodok Techo National Stadium, he clocked 31min 10.70sec in his first – and last – 10,000m attempt at the Games to better his previous best of 31:12.05 set in 2022. He finished behind Indonesia’s Rikki Marthin (31:08.85), while Myanmar’s Than Htike Soe was third in 31.25.55.

The 31-year-old is just the third Singaporean man to win a SEA Games 10,000m medal after P.C. Suppiah clinched gold in 1971 and Jagtar Singh took bronze in 1983. Soh had also finished fourth in the 5,000m on Tuesday.

After completing his 2023 Games programme, he said he was “extremely satisfied” as he had just six weeks of preparation, while confirming that he will not compete in the shorter events at the 2025 Games in Thailand. He will instead attempt to qualify for and win the men’s marathon for a third time.

For the 10,000m, Soh’s plan was to “switch off my brain for 10 laps and go with whatever they were doing, don’t make any sudden moves”. This involved following his Indonesian rival and friend Agus Prayogo’s pace and to try to reel in Marthin and Than Htike Soe with eight laps to go.

In an act of sportsmanship, the Singaporean offered Marthin his drink mid-race after the latter missed a bottle at the drinks station.

The 2015 and 2017 SEA Games men’s marathon champion admitted that he was not as excited as he thought he would be with the silver medal, as he had already tasted gold before.

Soh added: “You could say I played it a bit too safe. If I was better prepared, if I was more confident in my 10,000m ability, I probably would have gone from two laps out and possibly gotten the win.

“The first guy was on the ground and couldn’t walk when I was coming out of the tunnel to meet you guys, while I was still jogging around. He definitely took himself to the max today, and I ran smarter than I ran hard. Therefore, he deserves the win. But it’s been a while since I raced at the SEA Games and I am a little bit rusty.”

The national record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m, half-marathon and marathon, was not selected for the SEA Games in 2019 and 2022 after several clashes with the Singapore National Olympic Council.

The law student was initially excluded from the 2023 Games but his appeal was approved by a special appeals committee in late March. He did not run the marathon as he did not compete in one in 2022 to meet the qualifying mark.

Meanwhile, compatriot Goh Chui Ling was also pleased with her women’s 800m bronze, after clocking 2:09.15 to finish behind Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Thu Ha (2:08.55) and Bui Thi Ngan (2:08.96) on Thursday to add to the 1,500m bronze she won on Tuesday.

“Technically, I could have done better not to get boxed in but apart from that I’m happy I won a bronze,” said Goh, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

“Currently, I’m also doing my PhD, so it’s a lot of time management. But if I see myself still improving in athletics, I don’t see the need to stop.”

There was also another bronze medal from men’s 400m hurdler Calvin Quek, who timed 50.75 to finish behind Filipino Eric Cray (50.03) and Thai Natthaphon Dansungnoen (50.73). This takes Singapore’s athletics tally to two golds, one silver and five bronzes, with Shanti Pereira gunning for a women’s 100m gold on Friday to add to her 200m title.

Hosts Cambodia celebrated what athletics officials claimed to be their first track gold as Chhun Bunthorn won the men’s 800m in 1:52.91, ahead of Vietnam’s Luong Duc Phuoc (1:53.34) and Malaysia’s Wan Muhd Fazri Wan Zahari (1:53.86).

The 29-year-old said: “I feel so happy and proud to win this historic gold for my country, which is also hosting the SEA Games for the first time.”