Top coaches to put S'pore right on cue

Aloysius Yapp, the first Singaporean to win the nine-ball World Junior Pool Championships (Under-19).

He has worked with some of the game's best and now internationally- renowned pool coach Ralph Eckert will be tasked with ending Singapore's 10-year wait for a SEA Games gold.

The 49-year-old German begins a three-month stint with the Republic's national men's team from next Thursday.

He, together with former four-time world champion Allison Fisher, has been engaged on a short-term basis by Cuesports Singapore as part of its push to capture a first pool gold medal since 2005 at next year's Games on home soil.

Speaking to The Straits Times from his home in Mannheim in Germany, Eckert believes he can polish the players to strike gold even though his stint with the team will be short, saying: "I will need to assess the players and their technical abilities to see what their strengths and weaknesses are but yes, winning gold is the main objective and I am confident of achieving that."

He identified local rising star Aloysius Yapp, who won the junior world championship in Shanghai in November, as a player who excited him and whose potential was clear.

"He (Yapp) beat some very good young Germans last month and I know how good they are so I'm looking forward to working with him," said the former head coach of Denmark, Switzerland, Thailand and Morocco.

The 2004 trick shot world champion is also an innovator, having designed the Playing Ability Test, the only World Pool-Billiard Association-recognised assessment to determine a player's skill level through 10 drills.

With the data, he plans to design specific exercises to tackle their shortcomings and provide immediate feedback in training.

Compatriot and two-time nine-ball world champion Thorsten Hohmann has also been roped in to assist and will act as a sparring partner for the men's team ahead of the June 5-16 Games.

"Thorsten has his schedule of competitions but when he's free he'll be available to work with the team and that will be a big benefit for them," added Eckert, who is open to the possibility of extending his stay beyond the biennial Games.

Meanwhile, work has already begun for Fisher and the women's squad.

The US-based Hall of Famer has been in constant touch with national players Amy Hoe, Charlene Chai and Jessica Tan since spending a week here in October.

The 46-year-old Briton has been sending them tailored drills and monitoring their progress and will return in April to finetune their final preparations.

She said: "I was really impressed with the girls and their technique. Maybe their defensive game needs a bit of work and while they've won medals at the SEA Games, my job is to take them to the next level and win the gold."

This article was first published on December 25, 2014.
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