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Asian Games: Schooling in; women's footballers get debut

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Monday (April 18) announced it would be sending the Republic's biggest contingent of athletes for an Asian Games to the upcoming edition from Sept 10-25 in Hangzhou, China.

A total of 382 athletes across 29 sports earned the nod from a selection committee led by SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin. The committee met on Monday to consider nominations.

Swimmer Joseph Schooling will be in Hangzhou to defend his two gold medals in the 50m and 100m butterfly. He will be joined by fellow Olympiam Quah Zheng Wen, with the duo to see their first Asian-level action after enlisting the national service following the Tokyo Olympics last August.

The men's and women's football teams also received the green light, with the approval marking a milestone for the women, who will travel to their first Asiad.

The Lionesses will take part in their first SEA Games campaign in Hanoi next month for the first time in nearly 20 years, after floundering in the international wilderness during much of that time.

However, there was no place for marathoner Soh Rui Yong, who rewrote his national record with a 2hr 22min 59sec effort in December and cleared the 2:23:42 benchmark for the Asian Games.

Soh, 30, was aiming to become the first Singaporean to compete in the marathon at the Asian Games.

However, disputes with the SNOC, which has taken issue with his "non-performance related standards and qualities such as attitude and behaviour", have meant he has had his nomination rejected for the 2019 and 2021 SEA Games, and now the Hangzhou Asian Games too.

Days after he was excluded from the Hanoi SEA Games, Soh penned an apology to the SNOC on his social media platforms in a bid to "resolve our differences and move forward in the best interests of Singapore sports".

In response to ST queries on Soh's omission, an SNOC spokesman said: "We have yet to find any satisfactory evidence to demonstrate changed behaviour and conduct by Soh Rui Yong (since the Hanoi SEA Games selection meeting) which would enable him to meet the non-performance related standards required."

The spokesman added that the SNOC and the Singapore Sport Institute have been in conversation with Singapore Athletics (SA) on the nominations they put forward for the major Games, and sought clarification from SA on the application of their code of conduct and their consideration in nominating athletes for the Games.

Athletes who have yet to meet the qualifying mark have until April 25 to do so before the SNOC appeals committee convenes.

At the last edition of the Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018, Team Singapore's previous largest contingent of 264 athletes won four gold, four silver and 14 bronze medals.

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