SEA Games Gold Medalist Soh Rui Yong Refuses To Donate 20% of Prize Money To SA, President Says ‘No Objections’

Two-time SEA Games Gold Medalist Soh Rui Yong is making headlines once again, after speaking out against the mandatory social media blackout prior to the 2017 SEA Games. This time, the marathon runner is refusing to donate 20% of his monetary reward for winning a Gold Medal at the 2017 SEA Games to Singapore Athletics (SA).

His reason? The SA created more problems instead of helping local athletes.

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Soh has had enough

After being forced to remove his social media posts and threatened to be kicked out of the 2017 SEA Games team for failing to adhere to the social media ban, it seems that Soh remains unafraid of speaking up against sports governing bodies.

This time, Soh is picking a bone with the SA after it was alleged that the continuous “infighting, turmoil and poor administration” had a significant impact on the performance of athletes at the SEA Games. While Soh managed to defend his title, Singapore’s Athletics team returned from Malaysia with a poor haul of just 8 out of the 135 medals up for grabs. 

Unable to endure the poor system and always on a lookout for his fellow athletes, Soh has decided to take matters into his own hands.

The mode of protest? Not giving a single cent of his monetary winnings to SA.

Ah gong give money but must give own sports association a cut

As an incentive to reward medal winners, the Singapore National Olympic Committee (SNOC) awards athletes a sum of money under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP). However, it is mandated that 20% of the reward be given to their respective National Sports Association for “future training and development”.

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Having defended his gold medal, Soh Rui Yong was awarded a cool figure of $10,000. This would mean that he would have to donate $2,000 to SA.

However, the marathoner has petitioned against donating the money to SA after their poor management of athletes and a lack of concrete plans for the future. Instead, he suggested that either the athletes keep the money to defray expenses incurred during their preparation for competitions or, donate the money to a charity.

Foreign or problem talent?

And his misgivings seem to stem from one individual in particular: SA Technical Director Volker Herrmann.

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The 33-year-old has been the center of controversy after getting into disagreements with several athletes and even the SA’s President, Ho Mun Cheong. The internal squabbles led to Mr Ho calling for a revamping of the management committee in the run of to the Kuala Lumpur Games, though this was foiled by the International Olympic Committee.

One such incident involved 200m SEA Games Champion Shanti Veronica Pereira and her coach, Margaret Oh. Just before the games, the two were involved in a dispute with SA technical director Volker Herrmann over a centralized training camp in Taiwan for the 4x100m relay team. Coach Oh requested for Pereira to be excused for the camp as the latter was representing Singapore in the Asian Athletics Championship in India and was afraid that Pereira would be exhausted.

Instead of understanding Coach Oh’s concerns, Herrmann threatened to expel Pereira from the team. Way to go in showing concern!

To make things worse, a screenshot of a private conversation which included Herrmann and SA Vice-President of Training and Selection was leaked. The conversation showed the two plotting to find ‘reasons’ to kick a few coaches including Ms Oh out.

Today reported that Pereira was “affected by the saga”. While the sprinter tried her best to focus on the competition, Pereira ultimately brought home the bronze medal.

Like Pereira, Soh also suffered the wrath of Mr Herrmann but for a ‘w-hole’ other reason. The athlete had cut holes in his singlet to help him stay cool during the race but Herrmann was having none of that.

Like an eager father who has just seen his daughter in a low cut tank top and a revealing mini-skirt, Herrmann was alleged to have shouted at Soh just before the race.

While Soh managed to push past the incident and claim his second consecutive SEA Games gold medal, this proved to be the “last straw”.

Ex-athlete speaks out

The numerous problems in the SA has rocked the local community with 100m national record holder UK Shyam criticizing the lack of proper planning for the long term.

Shyam was reported by Today to have said that:

“We are not geared towards the long term. You have foreign coaches here for three to four years, getting to know the local environment, but subsequently replaced by others. The athletes suffer because they have to work with someone new.”

This was a sentiment which Soh also shared. With poor planning as well as a lack of support issued to athletes, Soh felt that the money could be put to better use elsewhere.

No money no problem

You would think that such an ultimatum would be quashed by the SA, because having an individual blackmail the entire organization makes them look weak.

In a surprising turn of events, SA President Ho, actually agreed with Soh. Ho was reported by ST to have said that “The money is for the athletes and they deserve it – they’ve trained so hard and they won gold for the country”. However, he added that the SNOC must approve of Soh’s proposal.

Ho’s acceptance of Soh’s protest speaks volumes of the sorry state the SA is currently in. With even the President admitting that the SA has done a poor job, action must be taken swiftly and decisively.

Featured images from Facebook and Singapore Athletics