Ex-runner Asmah takes key SAA post

Asmah Hanim, with fellow members of the national track and field team, (from left) Gary Yeo and Calvin Kang in this 2013 photo.

SINGAPORE - After scouring the globe for close to a year, the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) has opted to put its faith in a Singaporean to head its high performance programme.

Former national runner Asmah Hanim was yesterday unveiled as its sports development and performance chief, taking over from interim holder Loh Chan Pew. The latter resigned last month and has since been suspended for allegedly undermining the executive committee's authority.

Asmah, 29, was one of eight hopefuls - three local and five from regions like Eastern Europe and North Africa - who threw their hats into the ring.

"Some of them were pretty well-qualified," SAA president Tang Weng Fei said of the foreign applicants. "But, in the end, we preferred to hire a Singaporean. When you have a local with all the necessary qualifications and drive, you should always try to develop them."

A sports science research specialist at Raffles Institution, Asmah had previously served as the SAA's assistant honorary secretary from 2010-12, and was selected to attend an international coaching course at Semmelweis University in Budapest.

As high performance chief, she will oversee all training, development and sports science support matters pertaining to the national team - at both age group and senior level.

"I hope to inspire confidence within the fraternity and look into how best the association can help to develop potential and support their needs while working within our constraints," Asmah said.

She will also have a say in the search for a new national head coach - a process that has piqued the interest of experienced trainers from the United States, Russia and Uzbekistan, among others.

Asmah, a former 400m schools national record holder, said her relative youth - Loh is 69 while previous sports development and performance chief James Wong is 45 - should not count against her.

"I do not see my age as a disadvantage," she said. "Age brings new perspectives (and) perspectives create change."

Tang believes that Asmah is just one in a new generation of leaders who can take Singapore athletics to the next level after an eight-medal haul (two golds, three silvers and three bronzes) at last year's SEA Games in Myanmar. "With the Sports Hub opening soon, the hardware is all there," he told The Straits Times. "What we need is the software.

"These young leaders will bring in new ideas to improve athletics in Singapore and I am willing to take the leap of faith and trust in them to succeed."


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