'I stand for the truth': Marathoner Soh Rui Yong on disputing Ashley Liew’s act of sportsmanship at 2015 SEA Games

'I stand for the truth': Marathoner Soh Rui Yong on disputing Ashley Liew’s act of sportsmanship at 2015 SEA Games

SINGAPORE: Singapore's top marathoner Soh Rui Yong has intensified his spat with national teammate Ashley Liew over the latter's account of what happened during the men’s marathon at the 2015 SEA Games.

In a Facebook post on Friday (Oct 26), Soh explained that he only spoke up after three years because he thought at the time that it “was not a big deal”, and that he did not expect the account “to snowball” into Liew receiving two sportsmanship medals.

During the race in Singapore, Liew found himself leading the 12-strong field in the men’s marathon by about 50 metres after his rivals missed a U-turn and ran down the wrong path. 

Liew said then that he slowed down to almost a crawl in order to wait for them to catch up.

Soh eventually clinched the gold medal in 2:34.56s, while Thailand’s Srisung Boonthung and Hoang Nguyen Thanh of Vietnam won silver and bronze respectively. Liew placed eighth in 2:44.02s.

Liew was subsequently awarded the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy and earned special recognition from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for his act of sportsmanship.

He also earned a mention by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 2015 National Day Rally two months later.

TODAY first reported Soh’s claims on Oct 21 when he posted a comment on a post dated Oct 13 by the International Fair Play Committee on their Facebook page, alleging that Liew’s account was “untrue”.

But Liew’s management team ONEathlete Team replied in a statement that the allegations have “no material basis”, and said Soh’s actions were “unhelpful at best, and spurious at worst”.

In his latest Facebook post on Friday, Soh, who successfully defended his marathon title at the 2017 SEA Games, reiterated that when he first saw Liew’s claims in 2015, he “knew immediately that it was untrue”.

“I was right there in the race as one of the affected parties, and saw for a fact that nobody slowed down to wait for anyone else after that fateful wrong turn,” said Soh. 

“Speak to any of the eyewitnesses that have come forth to tell what they saw since I spoke out, and they will tell you the same - they didn't speak out earlier because nobody asked them.”

He added: “I'm all for sportsmanship, but it must be true. 

"Conjuring, exaggerating, and circulating a fictional tale of sportsmanship contravenes the fundamental values of sport - those of hard work, excellence, and integrity.”

Soh added that he did not expect Ashley’s account to be repeatedly brought up as an example to educate students and coaches about sportsmanship.

“I felt guilt-stricken and my conscience pricked whenever this issue was brought up and I was reminded that I knew the truth, but had chosen to say nothing about it,” he wrote in his post.

Soh said that he decided that the “tale had been exaggerated and gone too far” when it was published on the International Fair Play Committee Facebook page, this time even suggesting that the act of sportsmanship "probably cost Liew a medal".

"It was disrespectful to the bronze medallist, Hoang of Vietnam, to suggest that his medal was only earned because Liew had refused to press on his (approximately) ... 20-30 second advantage, when in reality, Liew had lost to Hoang by 6min 52sec at the end of the race," added Soh.  

"Whether the claim of slowing down to wait for others is true or false, mathematically it had zero impact on the final podium spots of the 2015 SEA Games marathon."

Source: CNA/am(rw)