Fifth, but new-look Singapore sprint quartet still smile
New Singapore sprint relay men happy enough with first big outing
A new-look national men's 4x100m relay team took to the track at 78th Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium yesterday.
While they hardly took the breath away with their time - they clocked 40.44 sec to finished fifth, more than a second behind winners Indonesia (39.28) - the Republic's sprinters had reason to smile.
Calvin Kang, one of just two faces left from the previous squad, said: "I would say 40.44 is very good.
"Usually teams that come together for the first time run about a 40.8 the first time.
"And some of our passing today was safe... From today's performances, some of the juniors are stepping up okay.
"Ideally, all of us should be running a 10.5s average. At the moment, we are running about 10.8s on average."
The quartet that ran as the new "A" team yesterday were Kang, Naqib Asmin, Khairyll Amri and Timothee Yap.
The relay team lost four seniors after last June's SEA Games on home soil, when they won a fourth consecutive silver medal with a new national record of 39.24.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Gary Yeo, Amirudin Jamal, Lee Cheng Wei and Elfi Mustapa hung up their spikes after the biennial Games, leaving only 28-year-old Kang and 21-year-old Naqib.
Yap, one of the new guard, admitted the task of bridging the gap with the region's top countries will be a tough slog.
"We have big shoes to fill," said the 22-year-old, who won this year's Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Track and Field Championships 100m with a wind-aided 10.52sec.
"The previous guys trained together for so long, they had very good chemistry.
"But for us to get a 40.44s on our first run is commendable.
"Over the next year or so, our base speed has to improve, especially if we want to compete with the Thais and Indonesians."
National coach (sprints, relays and hurdles) Luis Cunha was nonplussed by the task ahead.
When asked if he had a tough challenge on his hands, the Portuguese three-time Olympian said: "The word is not 'tough'. But we need time.
"This season, we have no major competitions, so it is very much a season of transition for the team.
"Next year, we have the SEA Games and that's the important one."
He added that he had problems finding enough quality sprinters to form a boys' junior relay team for June's Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Vietnam, and was likely to just travel with a girls' team.
He added he would present a preparation plan to the Singapore Athletics exco ahead of next year's SEA Games in August, in a bid to get the team to peak then.
Kang is hopeful.
He noted yesterday's time was clocked despite him nursing a knee injury, and Naqib had only just returned from a back injury.
"It's been a long journey for the relay team," said Kang.
"A lot of us are at different parts of the season, and we only had two relay training sessions together.
"In fact, the second was just last week.
"So, all things considered, today's time was not bad."