He's found speed, just in time

SINGAPORE- For athletes like Amiruddin Jamal, the modus operandi is simple: Go faster.

When he realised he could not, he knew he had to do something.

After an eventful few years, Amiruddin is raring to go at the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which officially opens in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Wednesday.

While teammate Gary Yeo is the Singapore No. 1 and the reigning silver medallist, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief Tang Weng Fei tipped Amiruddin to pull off a surprise in the men's 100m in Myanmar in an interview with The New Paper recently.

He wouldn't have been so bullish in 2010, when the sprinter - who was part of the national relay team - felt like he had reached a plateau.

"I found myself stuck," Amiruddin told TNP, in an interview last week.

"I clocked 10.62sec at the 2009 SEA Games (in Vientiane, Laos) and for a year after that, it seemed like I just couldn't improve on my time.

"So for a while, that was my personal best."

Amiruddin knew he had to make a radical change.

He decided to split from his coach Melvin Tan - who also coaches the relay team and almost every other national sprinter - to strike out on his own.

"After the 2010 Asian Games, I felt I needed to leave the group to improve," he said.

"I had a talk with Mr Tan and he said he understood my position.

"It was a very big decision. At that point, a lot of people left their coaches to join Mr Tan, and I was the only one leaving."

Through Singapore's 100m record-holder U K Shyam, Amiruddin eventually got in touch with former Malaysian sprinter Azmi Ibrahim.

It wasn't easy at first.

"He wanted me to make wholesale changes," said the 26-year-old National University of Singapore graduate.

"In our first session, he changed how I set up my starting blocks.

"Then, I had to work on changing my technique. He wanted me to focus more on my posterior chain, getting to put my leg down quicker."

After more than two years working with the 2001 SEA Games silver medallist, Amiruddin finally made a breakthrough.

He earned the right to represent Singapore in the men's 100m when he clocked 10.68 at the Singapore Open Under-23 Track and Field Championships in October.

Later that month, he clocked his current personal best at the Malaysian Open Track and Field championships with a blistering 10.46. That time means he is the fourth fastest man in the region this season.

Amiruddin admits all the attention that comes with being one of the fastest men in the region in a SEA Games year adds to the pressure, as the clock ticks down to the track and field programme at this year's SEA Games.

"I do feel the pressure, I guess," he said.

"Apart from Mr Tang saying I can do well in the individual race, Mr Tan has also publicly been gunning for the relay gold.

"But I've learnt over the years that there's no point worrying about it on the track.

"Once you're on it, you should just focus on running. So I'm definitely looking forward to the SEA Games."

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