Athletics: SAA unveils new sprints and hurdles head coach Luis Cunha

The new Singapore Athletic Association head coach for sprints and hurdles, Mr Luis Cunha (centre), with the Singapore 4x100 team on Nov 28, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
The new Singapore Athletic Association head coach for sprints and hurdles, Mr Luis Cunha (centre), with the Singapore 4x100 team on Nov 28, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) has unveiled Luis Cunha as its new head coach (sprints/hurdles) on Friday morning.

The Portuguese feels he can take the country's sprinters to a higher level, saying: "The most important thing is the correct mindset... the desire of athletes to perform well. I want to get to know the athletes better before talking about my coaching methods. But I believe, especially with the support of the Singapore Sports Institute, that the athletes can all improve."

Cunha, 49, will coach the Republic's 4x100m relay team and hurdles athletes.

A former national sprinter, Cunha represented Portugal at three Olympics - Seoul (1986), Barcelona (1992), and Atlanta (1996). He was previously the head coach (sprints/relays) with the Portuguese Athletic Federation from 2003 to this year.

Cunha takes over from Melvin Tan, who stopped coaching the men's 4x100m team after the Incheon Asian Games. The team made the final in South Korea, a first for Singapore's male sprinters in 20 years, where they finished seventh in 39.47sec, 0.02sec shy of the national mark.

At the 2011 SEA Games, the team missed out on gold in heartbreaking fashion, beaten in a photo finish after crossing the line together with hosts Indonesia in 39.91sec. At last year's SEA Games, they finished second again, this time a mere 0.04 behind winners Thailand.

SAA president Tang Weng Fei said the target is to claim three gold medals at next year's SEA Games on home soil. He said: "We are all excited about his taking on the role of head coach, and the knowledge he will impart to the entire community from his wealth of experience, both as a (former) athlete and as a coach."