A foreign athletics technical director as early as September
SA chief Tang says some candidates for new technical director post already identified
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.
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."
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."
"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)."
- Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei on the tasks for the new technical director
After a great Games, Tang urges athletes to aim higher
ON YOUR MARKS: 400m runner Zubin Percy Muncherji (near right), SEA Games assistant team manager Morales Menon (third from near right) and marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong (far right) trying to follow the dance moves of a performer (in high boots). TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Nine medals were won by Singapore's track and field athletes at the recently concluded SEA Games, and it was neatly split with three golds, three silvers and three bronzes.
Along the way, nine national records were broken, and 16 personal bests were set.
Singapore Athletics (SA) fielded a record 74-strong team for the Games, which was held in Singapore for the first time in 22 years, and the big stars were Shanti Veronica Pereira (women's 200m sprint), Soh Rui Yong (marathon) and Zhang Guirong (shot put).
At the SA's appreciation dinner last night at the Intercontinental Hotel, president Tang Weng Fei stressed the importance of building on this success.
He said: "Like any proper competitor, our athletes must not settle for what they have.
"Look at the world champions across all sports, regardless of their medium, and they have one thing in common.
"After every triumph, they go back to square one, and start from scratch all over again, to get even better.
"We need to study ourselves, and aspire towards the Asian standard, and achieve sustained success continentally."
Already, 18-year-old Shanti, who ended a 42-year-old gold medal drought in Singapore women's sprinting, is being billed as a trailblazer.
Shanti won the 200m in a time of 23.60 seconds, a personal best and new national record.
"I look at Shanti, and I know that she has what it takes to be Singapore's biggest track star," said Tang.
"More and more training, and it will happen.
"But she still needs to improve, because she still has some ground to make up compared to the best in Asia.
"But overall, I'm very confident, with her age and existing talent, that she will be among the best."
Tang also paid tribute to Zhang, who tore her Achilles' tendon during the women's discus throw final, and praised the entire team for their fighting spirit.
"I was at the athletics events every day during the SEA Games, starting from the racewalk on the 6th, and ending with the 4x100-metre relay on the 12th," he said.
"And one thing I can say is that the spirit of competition in our athletes is strong.
"One example is (Zhang) Guirong, who went to China for surgery after her injury, having already won a gold for Singapore two days earlier.
"She sent me a text message (from China) that said, 'I wish the athletes grow faster, better, stronger, and in 2017 (the next SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur), I'll come back and win the gold.
"That's the kind of spirit we want to see in our athletes.
"And that's the same kind of spirit we're seeing more and more lately."