Sports

The Cunhas are a family of sprinters

By his own admission, new national sprints coach Luis Cunha has not had too many opportunities for sightseeing in Singapore.

"I have no free time... I know the way from my home to the office to the track and back," he chuckled, when The New Paper caught up with him last week.

Now that wife Graziela is in Singapore, however, the 50-year-old says he might be able to make time to see some of Singapore's more famous attractions.

The Portuguese was appointed head coach for sprints and hurdles by the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) last month, and says he is settling into life here.

But he admits he is still getting used to a few things.

For example, even though his apartment in Kallang is "15 minutes away" from the Singapore Sports Hub, where the SAA's office is based, he says he has learnt the hard way to take the train to work.

"It's too hot for me," the three-time Olympian sheepishly said.

"I tried walking but, by the time I got to office, I'm drenched.

"So, it's just a 15-minute walk, but I have to take a shower."

Cunha has two sons - 20-year-old Filipe and 18-year-old Manuel - who are both in university and are also sprinters.

While Manuel runs in the 400m event for Portugal's junior team, Filipe has taken time off from the sport to focus on his degree in IT.

Perhaps it is only normal for Cunha's two boys to be quick on the bitumen - after all, their mother was also a national sprinter for Portugal.

In the SAA's press conference to announce his appointment on Nov 28 last year, Cunha admitted that a move to South-east Asia was a move "out of my comfort zone", having spent the previous 11 years as coach of the Portuguese team.

But he insists he is game for the challenge of adapting to life here, even if the food takes some getting used to.

SAA general manager Yazeen Buhari burst out laughing when he recounted Cunha's first meal in Singapore.

"I brought him to my house and we ate Indian food... I think he drank a whole gallon of water," said Yazeen.

Said Cunha: "In Portugal, spicy food and alcohol are the two most common things, but I don't like food that is hot and I don't drink!

"Anyway, for now, when I eat I will go with somebody who knows local food, because in Singapore you have a lot of different types.

"I like to eat food I'm familiar with and, at the moment, my favourite dish is chicken rice."