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CULTURE Published: May 30, 2019 Updated: June 7, 2019  |  WORDS: Jonas Nevin

Power player: All eyes on marathoner Soh Rui Yong as he blazes trails

In the month of May, we take a look at ‘Power Players’ in Singapore who are making waves in their various areas of expertise.

 

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It’s no simple feat to become an athlete and yet, marathoner Soh Rui Yong makes it look easy. With countless medals and three national records under his name, he’s hungry for more.

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong is leading the pack and shows no signs of stopping. If his name sounds familiar, it might be because of the headlines he has been making for his running prowess. When you think of sporting excellence, Singapore rarely comes to mind. However, with two SEA Games medals and countless marathon medals under his belt, the Singaporean runner is planning to change all that. In fact, in the first three months of 2019 alone, he has managed to obliterate two national records for the half marathon and full marathon categories, bringing his total record tally to three.

These accolades haven’t come easy for the 27-year-old runner. Last year, he faced a series of misfortunes that makes what he has achieved in 2019 seem almost unfathomable. As Rui Yong puts it, “I looked at 2019 as the year of redemption for me.”

2018 was filled with experiences that prevented him from performing to his true capabilities. He went up against unexpected bad weather that caused him an unsatisfactory timing at the Marugame Half Marathon in Japan. There was also a rocky relationship with an ex-girlfriend – something he has never mentioned publicly till this interview. Participating in the Ottawa Marathon 2018 in May became impossible when, just eight days before flag off, he experienced a stress reaction to his left foot that put it at risk of a fracture. Having had the best training of his life for the marathon only added to the frustration of having to pull out due to the injury.

Nevertheless, these challenges were not going to overshadow his past achievements, notably his back-to-back SEA Games glory in 2015 and 2017. He bounced back tougher than ever, and his successes in 2019 are a testament to why he deserves the title of a Power Player in sports.

Happy Global Running Day: Run for good, run for fun, and shop running gear
Rui Yong warming up before a run.

Rui Yong also believes that there’s power in truth, which is why he doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind. For him, it isn’t only the medals that matter. “I build on truth and hard work”, says Rui Yong.

When asked whether his recent dispute with fellow marathoner Ashley Liew puts pressure on him, he responds, unfazed, “Not at all”. At the end of the day, his daily routine, which includes a 16km run after his nine-to-six business development job at TheSmartLocal, goes on.

According to Rui Yong, local sports governing bodies give athletes little support, which can be challenging financially. In fact, before he had the support of Asics, Pocari Sweat and other sponsors, his coaching and overseas travel for competitions were self-funded.

In the lead up to the 2019 SEA Games, Rui Yong was allocated a competition budget of S$4,000 by Singapore Athletics that he can use to participate in overseas races. However, he continues to lack official funding for a coach; a problem compounded by the fact that there are currently no long distance coaches employed by Singapore Athletics or Sport Singapore for local distance athletes.

The challenges Rui Yong has faced have left close friends and family wondering why he perseveres in his pursuit of running. “It feeds itself. The better you get at it, the more you want to achieve,” he says about his drive to succeed.

Despite checking off so many of his goals already, it’s not over for the national athlete just yet. With the Singapore Marathon and SEA Games soon approaching, Rui Yong will be hitting the tracks more than ever as he aims to keep up his winning streak. From the looks of it, we should expect no surprises as he continues dominating in his field of athletics.

Keep up to date with Rui Yong’s race journeys on his Instagram.

All images: Daren Tay/TheSmartLocal

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