Athletics: Cunha to juggle roles, want to guide national athletes

Luis Cunha said he will work out an arrangement with his new employer, Sport Singapore, so that he can continue coaching national athletes under his charge.
Luis Cunha said he will work out an arrangement with his new employer, Sport Singapore, so that he can continue coaching national athletes under his charge. PHOTO: ST FILE

Former national sprints, relays and hurdles coach Luis Cunha said he will work out an arrangement with his new employer, Sport Singapore, so that he can continue coaching national athletes under his charge.

The 52-year-old Portuguese was yesterday unveiled as principal of ActiveSG's Athletics Club, a grassroots initiative that offers athletics programmes for athletes from six to 24 years old.

The three-time Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996) will oversee the club's programmes in his new role.

Cunha, who was in the national set-up for the past two years, admits it will be a challenge juggling both duties.

But he said: "I've enjoyed working with the national athletes. They seem to enjoy my help as well.

"We want to (keep working together), so I have to talk to my new bosses and see what we can do."

Under his guidance, both the men's and women's 4x100m teams set new national marks (39.24sec and 45.41sec respectively) at last year's SEA Games.

Dipna Lim-Prasad, who lowered the national 400m hurdles mark three times while training with Cunha, had told ST earlier she hopes an arrangement "helpful for (national athletes) and still fair to Cunha" can be worked out.

Talks are ongoing but it is believed Sport Singapore are not opposed to Cunha coaching the national athletes.

Also joining the club is Katrina Hall-Engle, who will head the kids (six to 12 years old) programme. Hall-Engle was coaching Eugenia Tan when she lowered the 22-year-old national women's long jump record in May last year.

The duo will work with existing coaches Steven Quek (distance running) and Melvin Tan (relay) to help groom budding track-and-field athletes.

Cunha and Hall-Engle will also mentor local athletics coaches.

On his new appointment, Cunha said: "You can say the ages six to 12 represent a golden age for children, not only to connect with athletics but also all sports and, importantly for me, the values of sport. It's the time they learn things easily.

"In the coming months, the Athletics Club will be reaching out to organisations such as schools and Singapore Athletics to discuss potential partnership opportunities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Cunha to juggle roles, wants to guide national athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe