Marathoner Soh upbeat about Olympic mission
Marathoner Soh Rui Yong talks about turning pro and his bid to qualify for Rio Olympics
Since watching the marathon at the 2012 London Games, I've been counting down the months, the weeks and the days to this year.
I always felt that 2016 would be my first genuine chance at qualifying for the Olympics, and the time has come.
With five months to the qualifying deadline in July, I will be writing a monthly journal for The New Paper, each touching on one chapter of my journey as I attempt to book my ticket to Rio.
The opening chapter is about my decision to turn professional this year. It is not the same as being a full-time athlete.
A full-time athlete is someone who devotes his time and energy entirely to his sport, but may or may not be generating enough money from his sporting career to fund his living and training expenses.
The professional athlete is one who generates sufficient financial resources, be it through prize money, sponsorship, or government funding, like anyone else in a normal job would be looking to do.
I feel the most sustainable approach for an athlete who aims to challenge at world-class level is for he or she to turn pro.
And partner corporations on long-term, mutually beneficial deals.
Corporations can provide athletes with the financial resources they need to chase their dreams, while the athlete can provide advertising space, help build a positive brand image, and contribute other forms of intangible, yet extremely valuable assets to their partners.
For such partnerships to flourish and become part of the Singapore sports ecosystem, corporations must realise the value that comes their way by investing in athletes.
Athletes must also realise the importance of presenting themselves in an articulate and marketable manner, while continuing to achieve the high standards expected of an elite athlete.
I am up for the challenge. I am a business administration graduate from the University of Oregon, but I decided to put my work career on hold till after the Rio Olympics in August.
I will spend the next seven months travelling for training stints and competitions.
I will build my fitness in the mountains of Kenya, living and training with the best in the world.
I will sharpen my racing tactics at the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff in March.
I will take a shot at the Olympic qualifying standard, 2hr 19min - 5min faster than Singapore's national record of 2:24.22.
It is a formidable challenge as my personal best is 2:26.01.
By chasing my passion, I aim to write the most engaging sporting adventure by a Singaporean athlete and I hope to inspire a new generation of heroes, willing to believe in their dreams, and build long, sustainable sporting careers that allow them to achieve their full potential.
Local drinks company Yeo's has pledged both cash and its sports drink products - H-TWO-O and Coconut Water - in its support of my Olympic journey.
The story of a Singapore company backing a Singaporean athlete is one that I am very excited to be a part of.
Sponsorships with the right athletes are a powerful form of marketing, far more effective, interactive and inspiring that any advertisement, brochure, or television commercial you can come up with.
Through my journey, backed by my agent Black Dot and my sponsors, I will inspire a revolution in the Singapore sports ecosystem.
Let the journey begin.
- Soh Rui Yong was talking to Sazali Abdul Aziz