Athletics: New national technical director Volker Herrmann swift to put athletes on the right track

Volker Herrmann looking on yesterday during a training session for the national team at the Kallang Practice Track. The new Singapore Athletics technical director quickly identified areas of improvement for the athletes.
Volker Herrmann looking on yesterday during a training session for the national team at the Kallang Practice Track. The new Singapore Athletics technical director quickly identified areas of improvement for the athletes.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Within the first hour of Volker Herrmann's first official day as Singapore Athletics' (SA) new technical director yesterday, he had already impressed national sprinter Goh Chui Ling, by identifying accurately what she needed to improve on.

"The extension of my body and the fact that I need more strength as well as stability in my back," said Goh, who was working with the German for the first time at the Kallang Practice Track yesterday.

"He's not the first person to point it out, but he had only seen me for an hour and pointed it out quite fast."

She is not the only voice of approval. Sprinter Timothee Yap, who received a wild card to last year's Rio Olympics, added: "He has technical expertise and he's very sharp. He can see where your little problems are - for example, he pointed out that stabilising my hip will help me run faster."

Herrmann, 32, was recommended to SA by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and is on a two-year contract. The Cologne native was most recently the head coach for the Bavarian state sprint team, and is also an IAAF-accredited lecturer in sprint and jump events.

In his new role, he will work with the athletes and their respective coaches on training and development plans, with the aim of raising the level of athletics here.

Herrmann told The Sunday Times yesterday that his short-term goal is to "ensure that everybody is able to compete at their very best" at the Aug 19-31 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

He added: "From a long-term perspective, we shouldn't have too many expectations concerning the SEA Games because it's too close.

"My goal is to see them to the 2019 Games and of course it would be great to qualify for the world championships or Olympic Games on merit without a wild card.

"That's everybody's dream, and we need to work on that."

It is the first time in seven years that the technical director's position has been filled, after former distance runner C. Veeramani held the role from 2008 to 2010.

Herrmann, a former middle-distance runner at national level, is no stranger to some of the Republic's athletes.

In October, he worked with sprinter Shanti Pereira, hurdler Ang Chen Xiang and jumper Michelle Sng when he was here on SA's invitation to conduct workshops for athletes and coaches.

The following month, Herrmann guided 20-year-old Shanti during her training stint with the Bavarian state team in Munich.

The reigning SEA Games 200m champion, who met the 2017 Games qualifying mark for the 100m in January, said: "He's helped me quite a lot, especially with my running technique... I definitely got a lot better after he gave me pointers.

"With the help from (Herrmann) and my coach, I feel a lot stronger and I can go a lot faster."

Goh, who was part of the women's 4x400m quartet comprising Shanti, T. Piriyah and Dipna Lim-Prasad that broke the 41-year-old national record at the 2015 SEA Games here, believes local athletes and coaches will benefit under Herrmann's guidance.

"He expressed intentions to talk to our coaches and talk to us individually about each of our weaknesses, so I'm excited," said the 24-year-old lawyer.

"Shanti has experienced the improvements so hopefully I can experience it for myself, and the entire athletic fraternity can as well."

SA's vice-president (training and selection) Govindasamy Balasekaran hopes Herrmann's arrival will help in developing a base of talented junior athletes who can make a smooth transition to senior-level competitions.

"I think he's going to look into most of the things we have planned so far, like talent identification, development and mentoring coaches," he added.

"Hopefully this marks a new beginning for athletics."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Herrmann swift to put athletes on the right track'. Print Edition | Subscribe