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Why SNOC has not selected Soh Rui Yong for Asian Games

On Thursday, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) confirmed that national distance runner Soh Rui Yong will not compete in the Sept 23-Oct 8 Asian Games in Hangzhou after he was left out of the latest list of successful appeals.

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 elaborated that Soh had failed to “honour commitments which he had provided to the SNOC, including on occasions following his participation at the Cambodia 2023 SEA Games”.

The council added that “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.”

The SNOC had sent two documents to SA a week before its appeals committee met, The Straits Times understands. One was a 30-page document that listed the various remarks Soh had made on social media from March to May while the other was a six-page document detailing comments from Soh made on a podcast by a former footballer.

In response, SA officials and Soh went through the posts and remarks in question and the runner subsequently deleted them.

But on Thursday, Soh was still unsuccessful in his appeal.

Here are some of the issues highlighted in the documents, as seen by ST.

1. Silverfox Hustle podcast

SNOC had picked out 20 issues from the one hour and 13 minute podcast. They included Soh’s comments on former teammate Ashley Liew, with whom he was embroiled in a public spat from 2018 to 2022. The case went to court and Soh lost a defamation suit and subsequent appeal. Soh’s other comments flagged by the council were remarks made about religion, the SNOC and a current teammate, as well as the use of vulgarities.

Excerpt of transcript from the podcast:

In response to a question on what representing the country meant to him, Soh explains that it would mean different things for everyone and cited an example of how it can overwhelm others. He said: “Some people they put on the (Team Singapore) singlet, they look in the mirror and they’ll cry. When we played the national anthem at the stadium, when Shanti won the (SEA Games) gold medal, they played the national anthem at the stadium. I’m not going to name who lah, I looked around and I saw, I saw one of the girls crying even though she wasn’t Shanti, she wasn’t on the podium she was just standing around after the race. In my head I’m like, siao ah, cry. In school you hear the anthem you cry meh? Like, you don’t cry what. I guess it’s different hearing it in the sports context, but to me I wouldn’t, when I’m on the podium I also don’t cry lah.”

2. Comments to media

Soh had referenced an incident that previously landed him in trouble with the SNOC. Before the 2017 SEA Games marathon, he was reprimanded for cutting holes in his race vest, which reportedly upset sponsor 2XU. In a radio interview with GOLD 90.5, Soh, who was there with national hurdler Ang Chen Xiang, Soh was asked how he coped with the heat in Cambodia. he said: “There’s no shying away from the fact that it’s incredibly challenging both physically and mentally… So three hours before my race I would submerge myself into the kiddy pool until I’m shivering, get out, and slowly make my way to the warmup track, so when I start warming up my core temperature is lower than normal, so that way when I get to the starting line I’m not like sweating and dehydrated. So all these things, I would have cut holes in my singlet if they had given me that opportunity, but unfortunately that’s something that I wasn’t able to do.”

In a radio interview with Money FM before the Games, Soh said: “Long story short, represented SG in 2015 and 2017 in the marathon, was lucky enough to win both times. And then I haven’t represented Singapore since 2017 over a number of like non-selection controversies. But I mean it’s good to put all that in the past now, and I’m glad to be representing Singapore again and moving forward from here. So yeah, long story short, parties managed to move on, and I’m very grateful to the Singapore National Olympic Council for helping us close the chapter on this.” 

In an ST article published before the Games, Soh was asked about what he had learnt from this “very expensive lesson” in the defamation suit with Liew. He said: “I learned that you can disagree and you can point out wrongdoing, but when you do so, in a way that people lose face or people feel the need to defend themselves, then nobody looks good.”

3. Other comments made on social media

* In an Instagram post, Soh shared a photo he took with Titus Low (who was jailed and fined in 2022 for transmitting obscene materials on adult content site OnlyFans). The former then responded to a comment playfully remarking that Soh’s journey on OnlyFans had begun – he said “come bro threesome”.

* In an Instagram post, when asked if SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin had “unblocked” him, Soh replied with a reference to a famous phrase by football manager Jose Mourinho: “I prefer not to speak, if I speak I’m in big trouble.”

* On his Facebook page, Soh shared an AsiaOne article on the the viral incident from the 2023 SEA Games where he shared his water with a competitor. In the document to SA, SNOC alleged that Soh’s caption on the post included innuendo on Liew. Soh had said: “True sportsmanship isn’t a constructed narrative or an excuse for not winning, but rather it is verified through actions, as small and instinctive as they might be.”

Soh Rui YongSingapore National Olympic Councilasian gamesathletics