Soh wins marathon gold in the rain
Welcoming the rain, Singaporean bags gold in only his second marathon
Halfway through the men's marathon yesterday, the heavens opened.
While the downpour didn't help any of the 12 runners, it gave Soh Rui Yong a reason to smile.
The cool conditions helped the Oregon-based Singaporean to win the South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold, crossing the finish line at the Kallang Practice Track in 2hr 34min 56sec. Astonishingly, this was just the second marathon Soh had ever run.
"I told my assistant team manager Morales (Menon) before the race: If it rains, I'll be in my element," said Soh. "With the rain, it's still humid but not hot."
Soh is the second man to win the marathon at the SEA Games, following Mok Ying Ren's historic triumph in Myanmar in 2011.
The 23-year-old business administration undergraduate at the University of Oregon would not have guessed the elements would be on his side in the morning, after he went through his final training session 24 hours earlier in blazing hot conditions.
On Saturday, Soh told The New Paper his plan for the race was to just be patient.
And boy, did he bide his time.
Entering the Practice Track neck and neck with Thai rival Srisung Boonthung, Soh made his move in the final 200 metres of the 42.195km race, eating up the bitumen in a stunning 33 seconds to leave Srisung behind.
The 34-year-old Thai eventually crossed the line in 2:35:09.
"(Srisung) was leading most of the race but wasn't going very fast, so I thought he was either not feeling too well or he was saving something for the end," Soh said.
"I waited a little bit, saw him stumble at the cones (with about 400m to go), then at about the 200m I gave him a little stare and went on ahead.
"Then I turned back to look at him again and I couldn't see him, so I knew I had won."
Soh cupped his ears and pumped his fists down the final stretch as a crowd of over 200 fans and fellow Team Singapore athletes, who had gathered despite the rain, roared him on.
Singapore Athletics (SA) president Tang Weng Fei was overjoyed.
Armed with a Singapore flag, the oil trader leapt onto the track to embrace Soh at the finish line. Later, still brimming with excitement, Tang slapped this reporter on the back and said with a wide grin: "What did I tell you last year? I knew Rui Yong could do it!"
Originally pencilled in for the men's 10,000m - he is the national record holder - an exhausted Soh said he could give Wednesday's final a miss.
"I've got nothing in the tank now, I'm so tired," he said.
"It's unlikely. Unless I can win a medal, I won't run. I'll decide on race day."
Yesterday's triumph has given Soh a boost and he is eyeing a spot at next year's Rio Olympics.
"I graduate in December, then I think I'll take some time off and see if I can qualify for Rio," he revealed. "I give myself a 20 per cent chance, but even if it was just one per cent, I'd go for it."
Soh appeared bemused when the press wished him a happy birthday - his date of birth is listed on the Games document as June 8 - before realising the source of the confusion.
"My birthday is actually in August... I gave my birthdate (to Singapore Athletics) in the American form," he explained.
But he had no trouble when asked to describe his feelings post-race: "One word... Shiok."
- Name: Soh Rui Yong
- Born: Aug 6, 1991
- Height: 1.77m
- Weight: 65kg
- Personal bests: 10,000m — 31 min 19.15sec (national record)
Marathon — 2hr 26 min 01 sec
- Did you know? Soh logs about 160km in training per week.