No more travel travails
Soh snags sponsorship for flights and accommodation
A couple of weeks after winning gold at June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil, national Singapore marathon star Soh Rui Yong declared his intention to try and qualify for the Rio Olympics next year.
Based in the United States, Soh revealed he would embark on full-time training after he graduates from his business administration degree course at the University of Oregon in December to chase his dream.
And he has now received a boost in his bid to get to Rio.
Flight Centre Active Travel, a company offering assistance to teams and individuals with sports-related travel needs, has stepped forward to support his Olympic dream.
Soh, who turned 24 yesterday, told The New Paper: "As a marathoner, the trouble a lot of the time is getting travel and accommodation (sorted) for races.
"I get maybe two or three good marathons at a high level each year.
"And (local athletes) don't make much money out of these races.
"We're not going to finish in the top five of the Boston Marathon, for example.
"So that's always been a problem for local marathoners, and local athletes, who want to test themselves at overseas meets.
"So I am very thankful that after the SEA Games, Flight Centre Active Travel contacted me and told me they wanted to sponsor my travel and accommodation.
"I was pleasantly surprised because I've never had a deal like this before.
"My sponsorships are usually just for gear or shoes."
The company is a niche brand of Flight Centre, an Australia-based organisation which has been in operation since 2011.
In addition to providing sports-related travel needs, Flight Centre Active Travel (Singapore) general manager Matt Fox said the company also has allotment for sold-out global sports events, citing the London Marathon as an example.
Said Fox: "We approached Rui because he is an emerging elite athlete with his eyes set firmly on the national record and the Rio Olympics, and is a great character.
"We will assist Rui with his travel throughout the following year for his major races and training camps.
"There are plans to assist other (Singaporean) athletes - in particular in the sports of running, triathlon, Ironman and cycling."
Soh previously stated that he intended to undergo high-altitude training at Flagstaff, Arizona - 2,130m above sea level - and estimated he would need $20,000 for the stint.
His latest sponsorship deal will be for a year, and although Soh declined to reveal how much it is worth, he explained there is a "base budget" and added incentives if he were to go on an break a national record, for example.
And he intends to do exactly that in Japan at the end of the year.
"This year, I'm looking at the Fukuoka Marathon (on Dec 6) and that's when I'll take a swing at M Rameshon's record," said Soh.
The current national best is 2hr 24min 22sec, set by Rameshon at the Chiang Mai SEA Games in 1995.
Soh's personal best is 2:26.01, clocked last December on his debut at the California International Marathon.
He won the SEA Games in 2:34.56.
Soh will run the 10,000m event at the Portland Track Festival on Sunday - the day Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday.
"That's something pretty special for me," said Soh.
"It's on the same track as the one I broke the 10km national record last year.
"Honestly, I'm not super prepared for it. But I'm one year fitter and stronger, and I've run two marathons since.
"In the big picture, I'm using this to kickstart my preparations for Japan."