Athletics: Cunha to head ActiveSG club

Former Portuguese sprinter Luis Cunha, 51, will be the new principal of the ActiveSG Athletics Club. But Singapore Athletics will not bar athletes who wish to continue training under him.
Former Portuguese sprinter Luis Cunha, 51, will be the new principal of the ActiveSG Athletics Club. But Singapore Athletics will not bar athletes who wish to continue training under him.ST FILE PHOTO

Former national sprints, relays and hurdles coach could still work with national athletes

Luis Cunha served his final day as national sprints, relays and hurdles coach yesterday, but his ties with Singapore athletics are set to continue.

The Straits Times understands that the Portuguese will be principal of the ActiveSG Athletics Club, the key person in charge of running the grassroots athletics initiative.

It is understood that former sprinter Cunha, who turns 52 on Monday, will lead a team of coaches that include former national relay coach Melvin Tan and long distance coach Steven Quek.

Katrina Hall-Engle, an American who previously taught at the Singapore Sports School and coached Eugenia Tan to break a 22-year-old long jump record last year, will also be part of the set-up.

Apart from running the club's programmes, the team is also expected to aid in coaching development in Singapore.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE

Luis is the kind of coach that's 24/7 - he really goes above and beyond for us.

DIPNA LIM-PRASAD, national hurdler, reveals why she is relieved that coach Luis Cunha will remain in Singapore even though his contract with Singapore Athletics was not renewed.

The club, launched at the end of April, caters to those aged six to 24, and runs its programme out of five locations across the island. It is one of several academies and clubs under ActiveSG, the national movement for sports, to give Singaporeans greater access to sport.

When contacted, Cunha declined comment until an official announcement by Sport Singapore - understood to be imminent - is made.

The three-time Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996) came to Singapore in November 2014, when he was engaged by Singapore Athletics (SA) to become its first foreign head coach for sprints in eight years.

SA, with a new management team in office following elections in June, made known months ago that it will not renew his contract.

Athletes who have been in limbo since while waiting to see if their coach will stay in Singapore will breathe a sigh of relief.

Hurdler Nur Izlyn Zaini, in particular, said she has benefited greatly from Cunha's technical expertise.

Said the 2014 Youth Olympian: "He's able to explain in detail why he is asking us to do certain exercises and how certain changes will help me.

"With Luis, I understand the rationale behind every tweak I'm trying to make, which is something previous coaches haven't been able to do."

SA has said it will not bar athletes who wish to continue training under the Portuguese from doing so. However, with Cunha's primary responsibility now with ActiveSG, it remains to be seen how an arrangement with his current charges can be worked out.

Most of his athletes now train six days a week with him, some of them twice a day.

Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, who lowered the national 400m hurdles mark thrice while training with Cunha, added: "Luis is the kind of coach that's 24/7 - he really goes above and beyond for us.

"The main thing now is the training hours - how flexible is it going to be for him to continue training us, and whether he can travel with us for training camps and competitions. It's very reassuring that Luis is staying in Singapore but there are still a lot of details that need to be ironed out. We have to find an arrangement that's helpful for us and still fair to him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Cunha to head ActiveSG club'. Print Edition | Subscribe