SINGAPORE — There were nods for Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling, reigning badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew and even a first-ever selection for the women's national football team.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, as the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) announced on Monday (18 April) its initial list of 382 athletes to compete in 29 sports at the Asian Games in Hangzhou from 10 to 25 September, controversial marathoner Soh Rui Yong has been left out.
It will be the city-state's biggest-ever contingent to compete at Asia's biggest sports extravaganza, eclipsing the 284 athletes Singapore sent to the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
There could be more athletes being approved by the SNOC selection committee, as athletes who have yet to meet the qualifying mark have until next Monday to do so before the SNOC appeals committee convenes.
Soh omitted despite meeting two qualifying marks
Soh remains out in the cold in his bid to become the first Singaporean to compete in an Asian Games marathon, despite meeting the qualifying marks for both the men's marathon and 10,000m events.
The 30-year-old had rewritten his national marathon record with a 2hr 22min 59sec effort in December last year, clearing the 2:23:42 benchmark for the Asian Games. He also met the 31min 44.14sec qualifying mark for the 10,000m event last November, when he clocked 31:28.67.
Past disputes with SNOC, in which the council took issue with his "non-performance related standards and qualities such as attitude and behaviour", meant that Soh has not be selected for the 2019 and next month's SEA Games editions, as well as for this Asian Games.
Soh had penned an apology in February after his exclusion from next month's Hanoi SEA Games, in a bid to resolve his differences with SNOC.
However, in a reply to The Straits Times on Monday, SNOC said that it has yet to find "any satisfactory evidence to demonstrate changed behaviour and conduct" by Soh since the SEA Games selection that would enable him to meet the non-performance related standards required.
SNOC added that, together with the Singapore Sports Institute, it had been in conversation with Singapore Athletics (SA) on the nominations they put forward for the major Games, and sought clarification from SA on the application of their code of conduct and their consideration in nominating athletes for the Games.
Soh, who is currently pursuing a law degree in London, posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday morning saying that he had not heard from SNOC following his apology in February, when he had suggested a meeting to resolve matters.
He added that he has spoken to SA president Lien Choong Luen, and will work through the association to file an appeal if the association decides to file one.
"I am disappointed to see yet another selection result in negative press for Singapore sports, but wish my teammates all the best at the Asian Games," he wrote in his Facebook post. "I remain open to resolving differences with the SNOC officials if they are willing."
Notable selections for Team Singapore contingent
Schooling, on the hand, received the nod to defend his two Asian Games golds in the men's 50m and 100m butterfly events. He and fellow Olympian swimmer Quah Zheng Wen will be competing at an Asian-level event for the first time since being enlisted into national service follow last August's Tokyo Olympics.
Loh, who won the Badminton World Championships in Spain last December, has been selected for both the men's singles and team events, where he will hope to land a medal or two in what will be a highly-competitive field with top players from China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The men's and women's national football teams also earned the approval of SNOC, with the Lionesses set to feature in their first-ever Asian Games. They will also be competing in next month's SEA Games, the first time in 20 years since they last featured in the biennial regional event.
Many team sports were selected this time around, such as the women's softball team, the men's cricket team, and the men's and women's rugby sevens teams.
At the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Singapore won four golds, four silvers and 14 bronzes.
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