Mok to be Singapore's 1st male marathoner at Commonwealth Games

TWO months after becoming the first Singaporean to win the men's marathon gold at the SEA Games, Mok Ying Ren has achieved another unique milestone.

The 25-year-old earned the nod yesterday to represent the Republic at the July 23-Aug 3 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

Should he compete in Glasgow, he will become the first Singaporean male marathoner to do so.

He told The Straits Times: "It's a surprise and I really want to thank all the selectors for having faith in me. I welcome the challenge.

"I've just completed my army medical officer course and now I hope to get some consistent training in."

Mok, who plans to train full-time to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was among 70 athletes to make the first cut to take part in the quadrennial Games.

These athletes, chosen by a Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selection committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister and SNOC president Teo Chee Hean, come from six sports: Athletics, badminton, gymnastics, shooting, swimming and table tennis.

Another four sports - boxing, wrestling, cycling and judo - have also submitted nominations but were told to come back with more relevant results by March 14 to meet the qualifying standard of a sixth placing at the previous Games.

The panel will meet again on April 4 to decide whether to admit more athletes.

While Mok's gold-winning time of 2hr 28min 35sec in Myanmar did not meet the qualifying standard (2:20:19), it was still enough to convince the selectors to give him a ticket to Glasgow.

Said SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan: "We think that he is close enough to the winning times of the previous Games.

"The marathon is a long race with many different considerations like weather and terrain, so anything can happen."

Singapore Athletic Association's chairman for cross country and road running, Ghana Segaran, felt that Mok's selection was a huge boost for his Olympic dream.

Said the national long-distance running coach: "He is really gearing up for Rio, and this competition will be a good yardstick for him in his progression."

Mok, whose personal best for the 42.195km race is 2:26:30, will need to improve to below 2:15 to qualify for Rio.

In Glasgow, he will be among a world-class field led by the marathon masters of Kenya.

John Kelai won the 2010 race in New Delhi in 2:14:35, while his compatriot Amos Matui was third in 2:15:58. Australia's Michael Shelley took silver in 2:15:28.

Mok himself has set a personal target of breaking the national record of 2:24:22 set by Murugiah Rameshon in 1995.

Singapore had 65 athletes at the New Delhi Games, and came home with 11 golds, 11 silvers and nine bronzes.

The SNOC also announced yesterday that Singapore's sailors have won three slots to the Aug 16-28 Youth Olympic Games held in China. They are in Byte (class II) boys and girls, and also the Techno 293 (windsurfing).

With youth athletes from sports such as table tennis, swimming and badminton still trying the qualify for the Nanjing Games, more are expected to be named in the coming months.

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