Wanted: An athletics whiz

Wanted: An athletics whiz
FOLLOW THE LEADER: (Left) SA president Tang Weng Fei gamely taking part in a dance segment at last night’s appreciation dinner.
PHOTO: TNP

Over four days of South-east Asia (SEA) Games track and field action at the National Stadium last week, an average of 7,500 spectators thronged the venue each day.

For a sport that has been struggling to shine over the last three decades, the turnout was encouraging, even if admission was free.

Coupled with a number of inspirational performances from the 74-strong team - a first sprint gold medal for 42 years from 18-year-old Veronica Shanti Pereira, a marathon triumph by 23-year-old Soh Rui Yong and 16 new personal bests, nine of which were also new national marks - there is hope local athletics is finally on the march.

In a bid to continue the sport's upward trajectory, Singapore Athletics (SA) is actively seeking a technical director.

The last time the track and field body had a technical director was in 2010, when C Veeramani filled the post.

THREE MONTHS

At a SEA Games appreciation dinner for staff and athletes at the Intercontinental Hotel last night, SA president Tang Weng Fei told The New Paper an appointment could be expected as early as September.

"Together with the SSI (Singapore Sport Institute), we have started the process of talking to some people," said Tang.

"We've identified some candidates, but I cannot reveal who they are."

The interview panel includes Tang, SA's vice-president (training and selection) C Kunalan, SSI chief Bob Gambardella and SSI's director of coach development Troy Engle.

Tang confirmed all the candidates are foreign, stressing the need for the incoming expert to be highly experienced.

The former national hurdler said: "He needs to have a macro view of track and field.

"He needs to be able to have a sustainable plan for the future, and have a clear idea of how we can give exposure to our athletes with potential, like Shanti and Zubin (Percy Muncherji, 18-year-old 400m runner).

"The thing is, most of these very good technical directors are currently either planning towards the World Championship (in August) or the Olympics (July 2016).

"So, realistically we will probably make the appointment in the fourth quarter of this year, and definitely not before August."

RIGHT MAN

Tang is hopeful SA will find the right man, citing the example of Luis Cunha, who was appointed national sprints and relays head coach last December.

"Luis has done very well," he said, of the Portuguese.

"The performance of the 4x100m men's and women's relay teams (both set new national records) was amazing. I'm sure you saw their baton passing at the SEA Games. "The women's 4x400m relay team as well, although (the event) is more about ground speed and less about technique.

"Luis is a soft-spoken, unassuming person, unlike some other foreign coaches who talk a lot, on Facebook and so on.

"But just look at the relay teams, and the individual athletes like Dipna (Lim-Prasad, 400m hurdles silver medallist) and Calvin (Kang, 100m sprinter who was 0.02sec off silver)... He lets his athletes' performances do the talking."

msazali@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 19, 2015.
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