This isn’t the first time that two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong has courted controversy in the media spotlight.

But it’s the first time that the legal system has been involved, whether he’s on the receiving end (over the validity of Ashley Liew’s sportsmanship award) or the other (Soh is suing national organisations for lack of transparency).

Soh made headlines daily since August 1 when the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) denied him his third trip to the SEA Games, citing “numerous instances where Soh has displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to.”

Following the rejected nomination, the athletics association (SA) responded that they respected the SNOC’s decision to not send Soh, adding that he had “on several occasions breached SA’s Athlete Code of Conduct.”

Subsequently, Soh was removed from the association’s communication channels.

Comments sections and forums have been rife with opinions on Soh’s behaviour, ranging from him being the next opposition leader to a prima donna who charges ahead without regard to the damage he leaves in his wake.

But few have asked: How do you feel? Why do you do what you do?

When you first saw the news break that you weren’t on the SEA Games squad, what was your first reaction?

RY: I wasn’t very surprised. Ever since speaking up about Ashley Liew’s sportsmanship tale, I had been receiving threats via Singapore Athletics Executive Director Malik Aljunied (seconded over from SNOC) that there was a “high risk” of SNOC not selecting me for the 2019 SEA Games.

Has your everyday life been affected? How have your close ones reacted?

RY: Naturally, I get a number of questions about it, but I take it in stride. My close ones have been very supportive and I appreciate that very much.

This isn’t your first time being in the limelight for controversy. How do you keep your wits about you?

RY: I guess that marathon running has trained me to be mentally tough and resilience even in the face of adversity. When I won at the 2017 SEA Games, I did so amidst a media storm because I had chosen to protest the SNOC blackout rule which is extremely unfair to athletes and the private sponsors of athletes.

I also had technical director Volker Herrmann yelling at me and trying to pull my racing kit away from me about 40mins before the start of the race because I had cut holes in it for ventilation and to stay cool in the heat and humidity and he didn’t approve. I won that race anyway against heavy favourite Agus Prayogo of Indonesia. From that day on, I knew I was tough enough to take anything on the chin and shoulder on.

Describe the Singapore sports scene. What can be better?

RY: We need more accountability and transparency from our sports governing bodies, more objectivity and less subjectivity in the selection criteria they post. Also, less political interference, focus instead on funding athletes and coaches to help them get better at what they do.

What do you hope to achieve from highlighting these issues?

RY: To shake up the leaders who believe they have absolute power over the sport or sports they govern, and remind them that they only exist because of athletes and that their job should be to serve athletes, and not use athletes as servants.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.” – Margaret Thatcher

Moving forward, are you likelier to compete at such regional competitions or more independent road races for you?

RY: I’ll likely focus on helping to market local road races by working with the race owners on social media campaigns, roadshow activations and other ideas. I’m having lots of fun working at TheSmartLocal.com and that gives me lots of resources that I can use to give back to my sport and lots of other sports in Singapore by raising the profile of these sports.

And if these races would like me to race them, I’ll be there as well, so I guess you can expect to see me appear a lot more often on the local race circuit.

I’m really excited to race the best competition at the biggest marathons all around the world as well, so races like Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon are all on the radar. I’ve already done Chicago, London and Berlin, so it would be cool to finish the World Marathon Majors one day.

In the immediate future, though, I have one goal. To run the fastest marathon by a Singaporean on Singapore soil at this year’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. (The current mark is 2:34:02 set by Murugiah Rameshon 25 years ago.)