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Soh Rui Yong urges MOE to address DQ of two Hwa Chong athletes in National School Games

Soh Rui Yong, Singapore’s marathon record holder, wrote to the MOE minister urging a review of unfair officiating decisions and policies in the National School Games, citing the unjust disqualification of two Hwa Chong Institution athletes.



SINGAPORE: Concerning the perceived unfair officiating decisions and questionable policies during the recent National School Games (NSG), Soh Rui Yong, Singapore’s National marathon record holder, penned an open letter to Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, emphasizing the critical need to reassess these MOE policies.

Mr Soh highlighted disqualification decisions in the NSG that resulted in two Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) schoolboys, one in the 400m hurdles and another in the 1500m, being unfairly disqualified despite their year-long preparation for the competition.

He suggested that while policies and frameworks serve a purpose, instances where they “clearly produce illogical outcomes that harm students – the very party MOE is charged with protecting” present significant issues.

Controversial DQ of a Hwa Chong hurdler

The NSG is organised by the Singapore School Sports Council and supported by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

On 5 April, during the A Division boys’ 400m hurdles at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Kho Yuan Zu, a 17-year-old from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), was disqualified from the race.

The ruling came from an on-ground technical official who asserted that the runner’s legs—competing from the outermost lane—failed to cross the horizontal plane of the final hurdle.

Amidst growing community scrutiny, particularly sparked by a widely circulated Facebook post containing video evidence of the incident, voices of dissent, including that of Mr Soh, began to emerge.

Mr Soh, expressing his dismay, referred to the decision as having “spoiled the experience of a young school athlete” and raised a pertinent question on social media: “I think that to disqualify an athlete, there needs to be very clear evidence that a rule was broken. If it’s not clear, benefit of doubt goes to the athlete.”

Mr Soh also pointed out a technical fault in the officiating process, noting that the official who made the disqualification call was not standing in the correct place to make an accurate judgment.

ACS(I) athlete shoves Hwa Chong rival after 1,500m elbowing incident

In another instance, during the NSG Track & Field Championships on 19 April, an Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) athlete pushed a competitor from Hwa Chong in the chest after winning the A-Boys 1,500m race.

According to a video shared by Mr Soh, both athletes ran closely, causing the ACS(I) athlete to momentarily veer off the track at the National Stadium due to the proximity.

Despite this setback, the ACS(I) athlete managed to outpace the other 15 competitors to claim victory.

Following the race, he graciously acknowledged supporters in the stands but later resorted to shoving his Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) rival.

The Hwa Chong athlete was disqualified from the event.

Commenting on the incident, Soh acknowledged the ACS(I) athlete’s resilience in overcoming the challenge to secure the win.

However, he asserted that clashes between athletes are commonplace in the 1,500m event, suggesting that such physical contact should be expected.

“You’re an athlete. If you’re clashing with an 18-year-old distance runner that weighs about 57kg and he manages to knock you that far away with one elbow, you need to do some pushups,” Mr Soh commented.

He criticized the decision to disqualify the HCI athlete, denouncing it as “very wrong and disgraceful,” and argued that it contradicts the spirit of fair competition.

“These are boys doing sport. Let them man up, ” Mr Soh said.

In another video shared by Mr. Soh, it’s evident that the ACS runner did push the Hwa Chong boy in the chest after finishing the race.

Mr Soh referenced a precedent case where a similar action could lead to disqualification.

In 2011, French Olympic medallists Mehdi Baala and Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad were suspended by the country’s Athletics Federation. Following a 1500-meter event, Baala appeared to headbutt his fellow Frenchman, sparking a physical altercation that was only halted by the intervention of officials.

Calls for policy reevaluation to safeguard student interests

On Thursday late evening, Mr Soh shared an open letter addressed to Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on social media, expressing concern regarding two incidents during the recent National Schools Track and Field Championships.

In the letter, he requested a review of the MOE’s policies governing the championships.

Mr Soh highlighted the disparity in treatment between Hwa Chong hurdler Kho Yuan Zu, who was disqualified, and an incident involving a 1500m ACS runner blatantly confronting and pushing a Hwa Chong competitor, which received less attention.

“Had this happened outside the competition arena, he could have been charged with assault and battery, ” Mr Soh added, questioning whether there are double standards in officiating.

Mr Soh expressed bewilderment at the MOE’s response

He expressed bewilderment at the MOE’s response, which stated that the on-field judge’s decision to disqualify Kho was final, despite the existence of objective video evidence that could prove otherwise.

In a recent reply to the Straits Times, an MOE spokeswoman justified Kho’s disqualification, stating that technical officials are trained to make judgment calls based on the rules of the game, and their judgments are respected.

The NSG organizing committee upheld the decision after HCI appealed, while the Sports Association’s spokesman addressed the submitted video footage, recommending giving the benefit of the doubt to the athlete.

However, the organizing committee had the final say, and the case was dismissed based on the framework guidelines.

These guidelines, implemented in 2023, dictate that the official’s on-ground call is conclusive, a rule agreed upon by all participating schools across all NSG sports.

In his letter to Minister Chan, Mr Soh argued that the video demonstrated the on-field judge’s error, yet it was not considered as evidence for the appeal.

“What is the point of the appeal then? No rectification was made and the athlete was not allowed to compete in the final. I am sure you can emphatise with his devastation.”

Mr Soh urged the MOE to reassess these policies, asserting that when they yield illogical outcomes harming students—the very individuals the MOE is entrusted to safeguard—it raises serious concerns.

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, … “the judges decision is final” !!!

SillyPore is blessed, … to be surrounded by “arbiters of truth” everywhere !!!

Even in Court if there is new evidence, a new hearing can be commenced. This is not the armed forces where everyone has to submit to an authority. You need compassion and to be versatile to head the Education Ministry. An ex- general does not quite cut it.