SEA Games: Soh Rui Yong finishes fourth in 5,000m in Games return
PHNOM PENH – Back in the SEA Games after a six-year absence, distance runner Soh Rui Yong could not mark his comeback with a medal on Tuesday, but he was happy to have “punched above my weight”.
Competing in a near-empty Morodok Techo National Stadium, the 31-year-old set the early pace in the men’s 5,000m but could not keep up with the leading pack in the final few laps, clocking 14min 48.43sec to finish fourth. Teammate Jeevaneesh Soundararajah was 15th out of 16 runners in 15:51.63.
Thailand’s Kieran Tuntivate took the gold in 14:34.77, while the Philippines’ Sonny Wagdos was second in 14:36.45 and Indonesia’s Robi Syianturi (14:43.45) clinched the bronze.
Soh, who won the marathon golds in 2015 and 2017, was happy with his best finish in the 5,000m, having been fifth in 2017. His time was also just short of his national record of 14:44.21 set in 2021.
He said: “I’m very proud of it. I think I made the race as exciting and as advantageous to myself, to my strengths, as I could. I am a marathoner running a 5,000m.
“Best case (for today) was third. My seed timing coming in was maybe eighth or ninth, so to get fourth means I punched above my weight. Maybe eight years ago, I would have been unhappy with coming in fourth and no medal but this is my best-ever 5,000m finish.
“I am 31 and I am getting better as I age. Look out for me in two years in the marathon. But first we have the 10,000m to come.”
Soh returned to the national fold recently after he was not selected for the 2019 and 2022 SEA Games following several clashes with the Singapore National Olympic Council. He was allowed to compete in Cambodia after an appeal was approved by a special appeals committee in late March.
While Soh did not make the podium in Phnom Penh, teammate Goh Chui Ling – who is competing in her sixth Games – did, after a national-record 4:26.33 in the women’s 1,500m for the bronze.
The race was won by Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Oanh (4:16.85), while compatriot Bui Thi Ngan (4:24.57) took the silver.
Goh, 30, who won two bronzes in the 1,500m and 10,000m at the Hanoi Games in 2022, received news last Friday that her 1,500m medal would be upgraded to a silver. She will also be awarded a bronze in the 800m, taking her total from that edition of the Games to three.
The Southeast Asian Sports Council announced on Friday that 10 athletes involved in doping at the Hanoi Games had been stripped of their medals. They included Khuat Phuong Anh, who won the women’s 800m and was second in the women’s 1,500m.
Goh said: “This is my sixth SEA Games and I am very happy to win another medal for the country. I always feel privileged to wear the national colours.
“After what happened (with the disqualification), this is my fourth medal for Singapore so I am very happy. This is accumulation of years of hard work.
“I broke the national record last year, and I am glad to go under it again.”
High jumper Michelle Sng added another bronze medal for Singapore with her leap of 1.73m, finishing third out of seven competitors.