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Athletics Local Singapore South East Asia Sports

Singapore Athletics Examines Leaked Recording, After Recent Scandals Take Stage

A three-hour long audio recording of the association’s extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) started to make its rounds on 13 July 2020, as the group and its members were reviewing its constitution.

The Singapore Athletics Association (SA) has since released a statement, condemning the leak and further opening investigations into its source.

Speaking to The Straits Times, SA president Tang Weng Fei has said that it was reiterated and emphasised multiple times and “made clear repeatedly” that any of the association’s meetings and proceedings are highly private and confidential.

Affiliate members attending the virtual meeting were made aware of this.

“There were strict professional instructions and conditions provided to the members before the EOGM, and reiterated at least twice during the EOGM, but the professional standards were not adhered to by certain members,” he said.

“Actions will have to be taken to make those who were responsible, account for their conduct, as confidential information was imparted (by all attending) on the common understanding and obligation of confidence.”

During the EOGM, 20 of the association’s 23 affiliate members, as well as 15 other associate members, attended a meeting which lasted around five hours.

As per the contents of the clip, Tang himself was addressing a question from honorary secretary of Wings Athletics Club. The SA had suggested a removal of their voting rights from its athletes’ commission representatives.

This, along with other proposed changes, were several that were raised during the meeting, which elicited concerns from some clubs even prior to the EOGM.

Notably, the clip was thereafter reposted on social media by Soh Rui Yong, a national marathoner, who famously sued SA for defamation earlier last year. The marathoner felt their statement on his non-selection for the 2019 edition of the SEA Games in the Phillippines was unwarranted.

In his Facebook post, Soh questions the proposed changes to the SA’s constitution, of which were made by Tang.

In another Facebook update on 3 August, Soh posted an update regarding his lawsuit against the SA:

“During a hearing before the Singapore High Court this morning, the Court ordered costs of $2,500 in my favour, to be paid by Singapore Athletics (SA).”

The leak comes after the SA was embroiled in a sexual misconduct case in the sport. Former veteran coach Loh Siang Piow, 75, was found guilty in June 2020 for molestation and abuse of a teenage athlete on several occasions.

In 2013, Loh had sexually abused the then 18-year-old victim under the guise of a sports massage to ease her cramps. This happened on two occasions at Tampines Stadium.

The SA has reiterated that it strives to construct safe sporting environments for athletes, citing the introduction of several measures that has been implemented ever since its new management committee was formed in 2018. It had downsized the size of its committee subsequently to prevent nominees from infighting.

The association has also been strengthening the appropriate channels utilised for any potential misconduct in the future, working closely with Sport Singapore to provide education and awareness.

Tang, when probed for comments on the guilty verdict, only said that Loh “contributed significantly over the years as an athlete, coach and administrator”.

Having never encountered any cases of abuse or harassment in her 16 years of representing Singapore, three-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu, 28, reminds that vigilance is key.

“There might possibly be cases of under-reporting, considering how sexual assault victims everywhere normally find it hard to speak out. I think that (Loh’s) case will encourage people to speak up on these kinds of experiences.”

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Athletics International Sports

After Years of Discussions on ‘Technological Doping’, World Athletics Updates Its Playbook

Technological advances in recent decades have meant athletes have had to struggle to compete not just on the plains of physical tenacity, but also on the equipment of which they adorn. The long-standing conversation of what constitutes use of ‘fair’ equipment, such as swimsuits, shoes, or baseball bats, has long been embroiled in debates.

As a result, governing bodies like World Athletics have had to constantly revise their takes on the rules governing shoe technology, allowing no leeway and absolute certainties when it comes to the preparation of sporting events. This seeks to maintains the integrity and true spirit of elite, high-level competition.

Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, World Athletics have introduced, upon immediate effect, stringent amendments made to these guidelines, in collaboration with the Working Group on Athletic Shoes (WGAS) as well as shoe manufacturers.

Some changes include the maximum height of spiked shoes for track and field events, as well as a new scheme entitled the ‘Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme’ for athletes who are not sponsored by manufacturers and companies.

The new regulations sanctioned an instant ban on shoes with soles thicker than 40mm, as well as those that contained more than a single plate.

Also stated are that any shoes that athletes compete in must have been available for purchase on the retail market for a period of 4 months, which tackles the use of prototypes in competition.

Here is a full list of the amendments.

World Athletics have made it clear that the set changes are to maintain a level of consistency, status quo and technology amongst all equipment, and level the playing fields for competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Until a newly formed WGAS that includes representatives from global bodies such as the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and shoe manufactures have had the opportunity to cement standard guidelines, the amendments are a stopgap in place in pursuit of a good balance between innovation, competitive advantage, and availability of equipment to athletes.

Jon Ridgeon, CEO of World Athletics, has said that this revised set of rule changes was only possible because of the tabling of the Tokyo Olympic Games till 2021. A first set of changes made in late January of 2020, were also enacted, and now that the relevant bodies have had more time, they have been amended with the help of stakeholders and experts to form a more updated set.

“We have a better understanding now of what technology is already in the market and where we need to draw the line to maintain the status quo until after the Tokyo Olympic Games,” said the CEO.

“In developing these rules we have been mindful of the principles of fair play and universality, maintaining the health and safety of athletes, reflecting the existing shoe market in these challenging economic times, and achieving a broad consensus with the shoe manufacturers who are major investors in our sport.

“These transitional rules give us more time to develop a set of working rules for the long term, which will be introduced after the Olympic Games next year, with the aim of achieving the right balance between competitive advantage and universality.”

The newly formed WGAS had their first meeting on 22 July 2020.

Their tasking includes: scoping and overseeing studies around shoe technology; exploring definitions to provide clarity to athletes about the shoes they are able to compete in; creating a robust certification and control process; and providing expert advice and recommendations to the World Athletics Competition Commission on the future direction of World Athletics’ Rules and Regulations concerning elite athlete shoes for the long-term.

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Athletics Sports United Kingdom

Gay Olympian Tom Bosworth Suffers Homophobic Abuse from Athletics Volunteer

The 30-year old British race-walker was contacted by The Independent in their efforts to support the openly gay athlete, who has reported the abuse to the social media platform.

The abuser, who was an athletics volunteer that belongs in the same county, used a highly derogatory term that is often targeted against the gay community, saying “F**s aren’t welcome in athletics.”

Bosworth, who is an ambassador of Stonewall, a campaign that champions equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, condemned the attack in a series of messages on social media platform Twitter.

In a series of tweets, the Brit reported that this had not been the first incident of the sort, referring to the abuse and bullying he received in 2018 from an official in Yorkshire.

“I’ve once tweeted about an athletics official bully, and I was accused of being in the wrong,” Bosworth wrote.

“So I’m going cautiously but, I’ll call them an athletics volunteer, from the same county messaged to let me know, ‘f**s like me aren’t welcome within athletics’. 2020 fills me with hope.”

Bosworth added, “I’ve reported to the relevant social media platform. I get the impression they wouldn’t have the guts to say anything in person but will keep an eye out.

“I laughed (to myself) and blocked them. Won’t engage with that any more. I’m only in the mood to spread joy.”

UK Athletics confirmed that they were aware of the incident. Bosworth posted again after, thanking the support he’s received on the platform, as well as from the governing body.

“On this occasion I decided not to take it further. Any repeat, that won’t be the case. I’m confident in my own skin and will protect those who aren’t.”

Bosworth won silver in the 20km race walk at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. His second stint at the Olympics would have been at Tokyo 2020, having finished sixth in the 20km final at the previous Olympics, Rio 2016.

Earlier this year, Bosworth also set back-to-back British records for the 5km and 10km race walks, just days prior to the announcement that Britain’s lockdown would begin.

“We’d just got so much right through the winter. All the hard work was kind of perfect and it all ground to a halt,” Bosworth told the BBC.

“I’m not going to lie, I took the dog for a walk, had a little cry to myself in the field. Thankfully no one else was around.”

“I threw the ball for the dog and went home and said ‘ok, athletes adapt’. I know how I got myself in this shape, and I know I can do it again next year.”

As one of the few openly gay athletes, Bosworth is often queried on his thoughts about the LGBTQ+ movements and conversations surrounding since his coming out in 2015. He proposed to his fiancé on Copacabana Beach during the Rio Olympics.

“I don’t feel like we’ve moved on at all, if I’m honest, unfortunately. It opened my eyes to a real world that I didn’t know anything about — LGBT inclusion in sport, and the lack of representation there.”

“It’s more ‘how do we make it a norm’, make it comfortable for people to live openly, rather than have to come out.”

“I never realised how big of a deal coming out publicly as a sportsman was until it happened. That became clear to me over the years, just how few LGB people are in sport, let alone LGBT, and reaching out to the rest of the community is going to come even further down the line before that becomes the norm or just commonplace.”

“So it’s disappointing – it’s changing really slowly though.”

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Athletics International Sports

Usain Bolt’s Failed Foray into Football, and Why Retirement Became Permanent

The Jamaican former sprinter and world record holder has hit back at his short-lived stint as a professional footballer recently, saying he was never given a “fair chance” at success.

The eight-time Olympic gold medallist is an ardent fan of the sport, and has made his love for English Premiere League greats Manchester United known. One of the most successful clubs in football, it was even widely rumoured that he could pair up with the Red Devils’ B-team for a stint, if not for its marketing potentiality.

Bolt retired from athletics in 2017 but then proceeded on a trial for Australian A-league side Central Coast Mariners. He starred in several friendlies, scoring a brace in one of them. With this, it almost seemed like it was on the cards for Bolt to begin another fairy tale profession, even if it wasn’t at the highest level he aspired for it to be.

At the stroke of 32 with his future seemingly set in the A-league, Bolt said: “I’m here to push myself and learn as much as possible.

“I’m just going to put the work in, but at the end of the day it’s the coach’s decision. I’m just here to do my best.

“Now I have the opportunity to play with a top team and show what I can do.”

Despite his appearances, the Mariners and seemingly Bolt himself, were not keen on each other, and the move dematerialised. He went on to reject an offer made by Maltese outfit Valletta.  Admittedly, Bolt was left frustrated.

“I think I didn’t get a fair chance,” Bolt told World Wide Sports in an interview.

“I didn’t do it how I wanted to do it, but it’s something I think I would’ve been good at. But it’s just one of those things you miss out on and just have to move on.”

“I do think about it sometimes that it didn’t work out the way that I wanted it to, because football is something that I love. The fact that it didn’t work out I do think about it, but as I said, it’s one of those things you’ve got to move past.”

Earlier in 2020, Bolt’s partner Kasi Bennett gave birth to their daughter, Olympia Lightning Bolt, and the footballer told 9 News Australia that he was contented with his life.

“Being a parent now, it’s different. It gives you a sense of accomplishment so I’m really happy and just excited to go on this journey.”

Bolt also expressed this year of his desire to return to his original scene in time for the Tokyo Olympics, which has now been tabled to 2021.

“My coach said to me, ‘No’,” Bolt explained.

“I remember when I was going to retire he said, ‘Listen to me, when you retire, you retire — you’re not doing a comeback tour’. And then when I actually went to him and said, ‘Hey coach what do you think? Let’s go try for 2020’, he said, ‘No, we’re not doing it.”

“I thought about it, but it was not on the cards for my coach.”

Bolt has reiterated since then that the birth of his daughter has given him perspective on his achievements, and ultimately on his decision to not go through with the comeback.

In spite of feeling ‘too old’ to return, he still maintains that the competitiveness in him has and will always be the main driver.

“If someone beats me I want to play again,” he says of playing online games.

“I kind of knew when I was going to retire so I mentally got myself ready, and I still do a lot of work, and try to keep my hand in different businesses here and there. I’m happy.”

(On his daughter, Olympia, following in his footsteps) “Everybody is already asking, ‘Is she going to run?’ But I won’t push her to do any sports. She can do whatever she wants, I’m just here to support.”

Categories
Athletics International Sports

Final Straw as World Athletics Hands Russia an Ultimatum For Doping

The World Athletics body has reiterated that they will be removing the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) from its ranks, if it does not comply to pay its outstanding fine and costs before 15 August 2020.

The fine, which was meant to be paid in full by 1 July 2020, amounts to $6.31m (£4.84m). This comes after 2015’s scandal, when Russia’s athletics was suspended after evidence of state-sponsored mass doping was discovered.

The report, commissioned by the World anti-Doping Agency (WADA), found substantial evidence of Russian track-and-field athletes flouting rules and being administered doping substances.

While Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin says the payment will be made before mid-August, a failure to do so would entail removing and banning Russia’s body of their representing athletes in any sporting games, including international competitions and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Rune Andersen, who is chairman of the taskforce primarily in-charge of reforming Russia’s operations and reinstatement, has been dismayed that they had seen “very little in terms of changing the culture of Russian athletics” within the last 5 years, since the break of the doping report.

Andersen has stated that the response from RusAF, Russia, and its reform after the scandal has been insufficient. His taskforce has undertaken “an enormous amount of time and effort trying to help Rusaf reform itself and Russian athletics, for the benefit of all clean Russian athletes.”

Any expulsion will have to be approved by the World Athletics Congress.

Russia’s sporting scene has been rocked with increasing controversy ever since the damaging finds of its doping report. In July 2020, Grigory Rodchenkov, best known for being the mastermind behind the doping scandals, has said that all Russian athletes should be banned in the fourthcoming Tokyo Olympics, in an interview with BBC Sport.

Now a whistle-blower, and in hiding from Russian authorities in exile, Rodchenkov said the country had not changed its stripes in regards to doping, despite its ban from all major sporting events for four years in December for its manipulation of laboratory data.

“The same personnel who were smuggling and swapping samples during Sochi (the 2014 Winter Games), they were falsifying all documentation,” he said through the virtual interview.

“It was a progression in falsifying, of this data — an incredible fraud of unspeakable proportion. It shows the country learns absolutely nothing.”

As more of Russia’s efforts have been reported to be lacklustre and uninspiring, news of another scandal broke out within Russian athletics in August 2020.

Yuri Ganus, who was appointed director of the Russian Anti-doping Agency (RUSADA) after the doping scandal, has been accused to have overseen immense financial irregularities during his tenor.

His own board members have called on Russia’s sporting authorities and governing bodies to remove Ganus out of his position permanently.

Ganus was previously appointed as the head of RUSADA during the same time it was appealing for its reinstatement over the aforementioned doping scandal. This comes after one of the conditions for Russia’s body to be reinstated was the appointment of a new director.

The supervisory board of RUSADA are said to be meeting to discuss the allegations against Ganus since. Chairman of the board Alexander Ivlev has publicly stated that the allegations are taken as factual, and further advised the agency’s founders, as well as Russia’s Olympics and Paralympic committees to put Ganus out of his position, the Interfax news agency reported.

WADA has since said it was “extremely concerned” by the board’s recommendations, seeking clarifications from the appropriate Russian authorities.

The case will be heard by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in November.

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Athletics International Sports

World Athletics Makes a Flurry of Changes and Key Decisions for Tokyo Olympics

The World Athletics Council announced a series of implementations to be cemented for future competitions, as well as for the postponed Tokyo Olympics that has been tabled for 2021.

Return of cross country event since 1924 Paris Olympics

Amongst the information announced is the competition format for a cross country event that is to be included in the upcoming Games.

Equally touted for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the event is said to be a mixed team relay for 15 countries, with each team comprising of two men and two women each.

The race will see each member run two legs of the 2.5km course, alternating between male and female athletes; each athlete will endeavour to complete the 2.5km before handing it over to a teammate of a different gender in their teams.

The World Athletics Committee has yet to meet with the organising committee of the 2024 Olympic Games to solidify the details for their proposal, with the meeting being planned for the near future.

Sebastian Coe, president of the World Athletics, has expressed his elation at the prospect of the cross country event marking its return 100 years. The event was last competed in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.

“My love for athletics began with cross country,’’ he said.

“When I joined my first athletics club, Hallamshire Harriers, the club president was Joe Williams, who ran in the last Olympic cross country race in Paris in 1924.

“It would be hugely symbolic for this wonderful athletic discipline to return to the fold after a century, and for a new generation of runners to fall in love with the glorious challenge of running off-piste.”

World Athletics Series postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with new dates set for all events

Amongst discussions and deliberations of Russia’s doping scandal, the World Athletics Council has also confirmed new dates for the World U20 Championships Nairobi 2020, and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Minsk 2020.

The new dates and locations for the World U20 Championships are Nairobi, Kenya from 17-22 August, 2021, a week after the tabled Tokyo Olympic Games 2021.

As per the competition’s rules, specific athletes who are 16-19 years of age on 31 December 2021 will be eligible to compete; the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships are announced to be rescheduled for 23-24 April 2022 in Minsk, Belarus.

Yangzhou’s 2022 World Atheletics Half Marathon Championships has also been pushed back a week, from 20 March 2022 to the new date of 27 March 2022.

Sebastian Coe, president of the World Athletics, explains, “The disruption caused by the global pandemic has made it more difficult to schedule international events over the next two years but we want to give as much certainty as we can to our athletes, Member Federations, host cities and partners.”

“We have done our best to choose dates that we believe are achievable and offer the best chance for our athletes and event hosts to shine on the international stage.”

Australia, Bathurst proposes alternative dates

World Athletics also provided updates for the Council on their conversations with the organisers behind the World Athletics Cross Country Champions Barthust 2021, citing that alternative dates must be implemented  for the Australian competition.

Australia, whose interstate borders remain closed and have enacted harsher gathering and travel restrictions as a result of their spike in cases, also have their international borders shut since March 2020.

World Athletics is working closely with the relevant authorities in Australia in seeking the optimum solution and dates for the competition – the event is still set for 20 March 2021.

Categories
Athletics Sports United Kingdom

Public Races in the UK Gear Up After Being Given the Green Light

On 11 July 2020, the UK government deemed that physical activity participation events were to be resumed, with sport facilities and public pools being allowed to operate from 25 July. With many global sporting events around the world opening shop, it seems like the industry was rife with speculation about what the running and race scene would look like in 2020.

Since then, Run Britain and United Kingdom Athletics have announced their guidelines on fielding running events — race organisers and competitors are required to complete COVID-19 risk assessments at every step of the race, from formulation, to participation, to post-race responsibility.

Below are what some of the new guidelines look like:

Before the race

It is not mandatory for event organisers to test and screen the participating contingent prior to the event, with pre-event disclaimers explicitly stating that runners should withdraw and not partake in races whatsoever should they have been feeling unwell 14 days prior to the event.

A standard of these competitions, race packs are advised to include numbers and timing chips that can be accessed digitally, so as to mitigate any time spent physically in race registration, a sight that is usually packed prior to events. In a bid to minimise queues and face to face queries, all sources and modes of communication and types of information should be relayed to runners before commencement.

Other things that organisers should keep in mind are social distancing at any point before and after the race, with public transport being a main area of concern. At any point, organisers must also note places that might spur possible sites of congregation, such as bag drops or customer information services, and seek to mitigate this from happening by social distancing.

During the race

The guidelines state, ‘Organisers must design start line procedures such that the density of participants at the start line is within social distancing guidelines. This can be achieved by:

  • Maximising the space available at the start line and the time available for participants to cross the start line.
  • Clear messaging to participants to follow start line protocols (e.g., seeding by predicted time).
  • Reducing the dwell time before the start to an absolute minimum. Move participants more rapidly to the start line.
  • Modelling the start “release” time. This would include lengthening the release time to allow social distancing to be maintained throughout the course and have a buffer built in to reduce the flow rate and compensate for compression on the course due to emergency access, pedestrian crossings, incidents, etc.

In the guidelines, it is noted that race pacers should ostensibly be removed, and overtaking during the race is also another concern of which education and solutions must be provided to runners so as to overtake safely whilst social distancing.

Participants of the race are also advised to be responsible for their own hydrating and nutritional needs, instead of relying on the organisers for such consumptions. Should there be stations of these purposes, beverages and food must be sealed, instead of the standard offering of cups, and should be picked up by runners — and not handed to them — to minimise contact.

At the finish line

Accordingly, runners must be dismissed and dispersed from their respective finishing lines soonest, limiting any areas of contact and ‘unnecessary touch points’, like the physical gifting of medals. Unless urgent medical attention is required for a particular runner, no one person should be allowed to loiter near the finish lines, especially in terms of sitting down or lying on the ground.

Hand sanitisers and hand washing stations must be provided. Race helpers and volunteers must be wearing ample personal protection equipment (PPE) in maximising their defense, and organisers must provide proof and plans of providing aid to runners who exhibit symptoms during the event.

Lastly, that those who were hospitalised due to COVID-19 should undergo a form of health screening prior to taking part in an event.

The screening should be led by a doctor with specialist training in sports medicine; however other doctors who are competent to make decisions on the participants’ fitness to compete, and to decide any appropriate investigations that might be required, are allowed to do so.

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Asia Athletics Cycling Local Singapore South East Asia Sports

Amidst the Pandemic, Singapore’s Marathons Undergo Necessary Virtual Pivot

Throughout the calendar year, the sunny island’s obsession with public marathons and cross-country events are often met with devout athletes who wish to test their mettle. It’s no secret that our people love a good sweat and soak.

However, amidst the dangers of hosting mass public events and gatherings, and with infection cases gradually declining since the exit of the ‘Circuit Breaker’ lockdown, it would be presumptuous for events that cater to tens of thousands to be brought back with such haste.

One such marathon that has been a mainstay in the runners’ schedule is the 2XU Compression Run Singapore.

The event has drawn intense numbers over the years, amassing a cult following of enthusiasts not just locally but from the region to participate in its edgy showdown.

Touted to have sold almost 16,000 tickets over 3 race courses — 5km , 10km, and 21.1km — the 2020 edition was originally scheduled for April 2020 at the F1 Pit Building.

As well, organisers had also introduced two new regional legs in Indonesia and Malaysia, to form the Asia series 2020, to commemorate its 10th anniversary. Runners who took part and completed all 3 would be eligible for a limited edition 2XU Conqueror Medal from the respective races that could be combined to form a bigger whole.

But as of July, organisers have released announcements postponing the races to April 2021, in a move that was highly expected.

Previously, similar events like the Osim Sundown Marathon, the Income Eco Run, as well as the Great Eastern Women’s Run were inevitably shelved and moved to 2021, many still going through the motions of processing refunds and questions from ticket holders.

Besides runs, the OCBC Cycle 2020 event has also been officially withdrawn, the 7,000 strong tournament initially postponed till an unspecified ‘later date’ in 2020. With experts reporting that vaccinations will not be massively available at a rapid pace in the near future of 2020, the writing was on the wall for this one a well.

In a media statement, OCBC has reiterated that full refunds will be made by September for registrants.

In a move of good faith, OCBC has allowed an alternative option for a participant’s entry fee to be donated to Care Corner Singapore, OCBC Cycle’s chosen charity, which supports low income and little opportunity families or households in championing access and tools for formal education.

As a pivot to the physical competition, the company has established a virtual set-up, titled the OCBC Cycle 2020 Virtual Ride, which will be held in Novermber.

Consisting of three categories — The Sportive VR (42km), The Straits Times VR  (23km), as well as the Mighty SaversKids VR (5km or 800m), it seems like the company and its sponsors have teamed up to provide the public a safer, less centralised, and non-tangible model of their competition.

In this edition, cyclists who cover the entire distance in their chosen categories, even in indoor bicycles, will automatically be considered to have completed the ride.

All of this information must be tracked by a workout app or fitness tracker on their smartphones, and participants are not required to execute the entire distance in one sitting.

Following completion, an OCBC Cycle 2020 medal and tote bag will also be posted via mail to entrants.

It’s a welcomed move by its organisers, who seek to retain brand loyalty amidst the fallout of public participation and inactivity.

Koh Ching Ching, who is the head of group brand and communications at OCBC Bank, said that without sacrificing the safety of participants, they still “hope to bring the joy of cycling to the community via the virtual ride format”.

“People deserve to have something they can get excited about during this challenging time.”

The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) is perceived to be making an announcement in a similar vein soon, with Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Tech Yin hinting that virtual engagements for the competition are likely.

Last year, the SCSM attracted over 50,000 participants, with more than 70,000 supporters cheering their loved ones on from spectator zones.