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HomesportCNA Explains: How are athletes selected to represent Singapore at major games?

CNA Explains: How are athletes selected to represent Singapore at major games?

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s top distance runner Soh Rui Yong will miss the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China after being once again left out of the national selection.

The 31-year-old was not included in the Singapore National Olympic Council’s (SNOC) list of successful appeals for the Games, published on Jun 8. 

This came a month after Soh clinched a silver medal in the men’s 10,000m race at the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia, setting a new national record in the process.

Soh’s participation in Phnom Penh marked the end of a more than five-year absence from major games following several clashes with SNOC, which led to his exclusion from the 2019 and 2021 editions of the SEA Games despite meeting the qualification criteria both times.

SNOC said its appeals committee for the Asian Games considered Singapore Athletics’ nomination for Soh’s participation, and decided not to select him. 

“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“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.”

For the SEA Games, athletes need to have achieved at least a third place at the last edition of the event. For team sports, they should currently be ranked third among SEA Games countries.

Athletes or teams who miss the qualifying standard “marginally”, but show potential to equal or surpass it in time for the Games, can be selected too.

These achievements should take place at NSA-sanctioned championships and trials, but NSAs can submit achievements from overseas championships and meets, for athletes studying in overseas tertiary institutions. However, these have to be “properly accredited and sanctioned” to be accepted.

At the same time, SNOC’s selection criteria also includes a section from the Olympic Charter, stating that “selection shall be based not only on the sports performance of an athlete, but also on his ability to serve as an example to the sporting youth of his country”.

SNOC’s constitution also states that one of the objectives of the Council is to ensure observance of the Olympic Charter.


According to SNOC, “qualities” of athletes will also be taken into consideration during the selection process for both SEA Games and Asian Games.

These include attitude and behaviour towards coaches, teammates, fellow athletes, officials and sports administrators whether in relation to sporting matters or otherwise; “general” conduct and character which may affect the reputation, image, values or best interests of the athlete or the sport; and past disciplinary record.

Other considerations are:

Current skill level and fitness; and characterLevel of commitment and attendancePotential for future developmentAbility to demonstrate team spirit and work well with teammates and officials;And other non-performance-related qualities as the selectors may consider to be relevant. 

Former national sprinter UK Shyam agreed that athlete selection should take into consideration both sporting performance and personal conduct.

“There’s no reason that it (has) to be viewed in binaries or black or white, because being an athlete is a lot more complex than winning medals,” said Shyam, who was speaking generally rather than on Soh’s case.

Every vocation has a code of conduct which individuals have to follow, and athletes are not excluded from this, added Shyam, who still holds Singapore’s 100m national record at 10.37s. 

“Just as we expect the administrators to do certain things and they are held by certain standards, whether it is about principles of consistency or fairness, it is a mutual relationship. There are also duties and expectations of conduct on our part,” he told CNA.

“It’s a privilege to represent the country and the system in many instances provides us with opportunities and funding, so athletes also have duties to fulfil. We are the face of the country and the sport.”

At the same time, the nature of an individual’s infractions must also be considered when an assessment is made, he pointed out.

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