Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong after receiving his gold medal on the podium at the 29th Sea Games, in front of the Istana Kehakiman in Putrajaya (Source: The Straits Times).

Netizens support national athlete’s bid to transfer portion of prize money to his coach instead of Singapore Athletics

In a Straits Times report dated, 20 September 2017, it is reported that national athlete Soh Rui Yong is taking issues with having to donate $2,000 to Singapore Athletics (SA) after retaining his SEA Games marathon gold “without any coaching help” from SA ahead of last month’s biennial event in Kuala Lumpur.

“As a marathon runner who has now won the (SEA Games) gold twice, I have done it without any coaching help from SA. I’d rather the $2,000 go to my coach (American Ben Rosario), who has helped me way more than most SA administrators have,” the 26-year-old man told the ST, adding that the bulk of public funding for him to train for the SEA Games came from the SSI (Singapore Sports Institute).

Soh estimates that he forked out over $2,000 of his own money to train for the SEA Games and told ST that one other grouse is the infighting that plagued the local athletics fraternity over the past year, saying that SA should be supporting athletes morally as well.

Soh will receive $10,000 under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), which provides a cash payout to athletes who win medals at the Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games. For the Olympic, Asian and SEA Games, they have to donate 20 per cent of the MAP awards to their respective federations for future training and development. The quantum for the Commonwealth Games is 50 per cent.

However, the report further notice that SA president Ho Mun Cheong insisted that SA, which governs local track and field activities, has been funding its athletes, saying that Soh is slated to receive a $1,200 monthly allowance from the association this year in quarterly disbursements. The sum adds up to $10,800 for the year so far.

He added that Soh has received $7,200 from SA this year. ST understands that SA has also disbursed at least $50,000 over the past three years to Soh and his former coach Ian Dobson to date. (Which is about $1,400 per month.)

Mr Ho, however, noted that he does not object to allowing Soh to retain the entire sum as long as the relevant authorities are in agreement.

Commenting on the story, netizens expressed their disappointment on how the authorities treat the national athletes.

Soh himself wrote on the comments section,

“Amount Singapore Athletics has spent on the salaries of sprints head coaches/technical directors since Nov 2014: over $400,000 (monthly salary of $10,000 – $14,000 for a head coach/technical director)
Total number of sprints gold medals won at the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games: 1 (Shanti Pereria, 200m in 2015, coached by Margaret Oh who is not paid a salary by Singapore Athletics)
Amount Singapore Athletics has spent on the salaries of distance coaches since Jan 2015: $0
Total number of distance gold medals won at the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games: 2 (Soh Rui Yong, 2015 and 2017 Marathon)”

Reginald Ashton wrote on ST’s Facebook page, “The sad, pathetic state which Singapore Sports has always been. the true reason why it has never been worth it representing this country as a local sportsperson.”

Koh Chiew Ng wrote, “Just like Joseph Schooling has to contribute his awards winning $$$ too even though his training is funded by his parents.”

Ng Cher Choon wrote, “Keep the money and spend on your gear and other needs that will enhance your daily practice. These S$1,200.00 per month isn’t enough to provide a Singaporean athletes enough for transport, food, coaching and their gear. Still must donate?”

Mike Michael wrote, “I fully support his suggestion and decision for the $2,000 to go to his coach. This is the way to go.”

JJ Adventurerous wrote, “I believe $2000 is not much for him even if he keeps it, it is the principle that he believes in, he should knows better than all of us and he should be paying more than $2000 to his coach. Our gov should look at what SA is doing.”

Donaldson Tan wrote, “Why are we paying our local athletes peanuts? $1200 per month is not an adequate monthly salary. At this rate, sports can only be a part time endeavour yet only full time training can produce winners.”

Geoffrey Lim Ming Hui wrote, “Singapore expect maximum return for minimal help.”

Phua Koon Kee wrote, “The problem is we implant politicians into the sports associations. These people are doing multiple jobs: day time profession, member of parliament, other government committees and they have neither passion nor knowledge of the sport associations they helm. Look at football and athletics.”

Darren Ay wrote, “The allowance for Soh came from the govt, through the Singapore Athletics. The money for his allowance did not originate from the Singapore Athletics (SA). So if indeed the SA did nothing to further Singapore’s sporting aspirations by providing Soh with the best training possible, then it should not have any right to obtain 20% of his prize money.”

Loh Wai Poon wrote, “If his complaint about not getting coaching help from SA is true, then SA has to answer why! The govt funded SA to promote Athletics n when a national athlete who is going to important sport meet like SEA Games receive no help from SA, then why we fund u? It is a break of contract between SA n the Govt. SA has to response quickly.”

Jacky Loh wrote, “It’s time government to step in and shake up all these associations. Out of date, out of time, and out of depth. Time for a shake-up-or-ship-out period.”

Ron Ng wrote, “Only the sportman himself knew how much effort he put in to win a medal and only he himself know who supported and help him through the journey. Congrats again!”

Stan Jon wrote, “More athletes should speak up or otherwise administrators who thrive on politics are going to destroy the beauty of the games with self accentuating motives.”

However, Decry Hardiyanto Bin Zaidi wrote, “If the claim by SA is true, please get auditors to check whether the funding receive by correct recipients. We do not wish it become like the welfare org where the officer pocket the money instead giving to the recipients.”