Defending South-east Asia (SEA) Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong yesterday cleared Singapore Athletics' (SA) "performance test" mark with a sub 68-minute run at the Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon in Japan, to put himself in the driver's seat for a place at the August Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The 25-year-old had met the Games qualifying mark of 2 hrs 37 min 10 sec when he clocked 2:24.55 at the Chicago Marathon last October.
But SA's selection criteria requires marathoners who qualified between Aug 1 and Dec 31 last year to prove their fitness by clearing another mark in either a half-marathon or 10,000m event, before May 31 this year.
Soh, who clinched gold at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil, needed to clock a time below 1:12.30 yesterday and he did just that with a time of 1:07.53, despite cold and rainy conditions.
Soh, who set his personal best in the half marathon in 2015 with a time of 1:07:21, told The New Paper: "The race was very manageable. I felt better and better as it went on.
"I'm very happy with my time, which is my second-fastest time ever... as it's my first big race since working full-time.
"I think this shows it's possible to work and still train pretty well. I was also very happy about my finishing sprint today - I covered the last 200m in about 30 seconds."
Soh now has to see if other runners - such as 2013 SEA Games champion Mok Ying Ren (PB: 2:26:30) and Ashley Liew (PB: 2:32:12) - also meet the qualifying mark before May 31.
If more than two runners qualify, SA will pick only two athletes with the fastest times.
Soh, however, is focused only on maintaining his fitness and preparing for the SEA Games.
He had to manage a knee and foot injury in Japan, and said he is unlikely to run a full marathon before August.
He will, however, compete in either 5,000m or 10,000m races in an attempt to qualify for the SEA Games in those distances "as a personal challenge."
Said the executive at Sport Singapore's coaching development department: "(The injuries) have been very annoying but today's result shows I still can race pretty well while injured as long as I play it smart."
This article was first published on Feb 6, 2017.
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