Singapore Athletics chief vows to probe complaints

Mr Ho Mun Cheong has promised to investigate the accusations that have been levelled against technical director Volker Herrmann.
Mr Ho Mun Cheong has promised to investigate the accusations that have been levelled against technical director Volker Herrmann.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Ho to investigate after several leading national athletes raise concerns about Herrmann

Singapore Athletics (SA) president Ho Mun Cheong has promised to investigate the accusations that have been levelled against technical director Volker Herrmann.

On Tuesday, The Straits Times (ST) reported that national sprint-hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad had lodged complaints about Herrmann via e-mail.

ST also understands that national pole vaulter Rachel Yang and marathoner Soh Rui Yong, who retained his SEA Games title last month, have raised concerns about the German too.

Lim-Prasad told ST yesterday that she felt Herrmann had been undermining her coach Luis Cunha throughout the season.

In particular, he had publicly criticised Cunha's training methods, and appeared to be unreceptive to other training suggestions.

Ho confirmed yesterday that he had received the complaints.

He added: "All these things are very serious and something must be done or it will make a mockery of local track and field."

Lim-Prasad said her decision to file a complaint came after a July meeting with her training group and Herrmann, following which she raised her concerns with the Major Games Preparation Committee (MGPC) but did not see any progress.

STOP PROBLEMS IN THEIR TRACKS

All these things are very serious and something must be done or it will make a mockery of local track and field.

HO MUN CHEONG, SA president, on why the governing body of local athletics has to look into complaints made against its technical director Volker Herrmann.

TRAINING, DEVELOPMENT NEEDED

I see the potential of our athletes and I think they can not only succeed at the SEA Games, but also at Asian and continental levels. In the end, we have to work together to offer a training and development programme for this to happen.

VOLKER HERRMANN, SA technical director, on the need for everybody to come together for the good of the athletes.

The MGPC had been formed by the Singapore National Olympic Council and Sport Singapore in June to take charge of the SEA Games athletics team owing to infighting between SA officials.

Lim-Prasad, who set two national records and won a silver medal at last month's SEA Games, said she hoped that, moving forward, Herrmann would be more sensitive and open towards others' opinions.

"There's going to be a lot of different ways to reach our common goal (of doing well for Singapore), but if we have the athletes' best interests in our hearts and minds, we'll be able to identify the right path," added the 26-year-old.

Soh revealed that Herrmann had shouted "aggressively" at him just before he ran the SEA Games marathon last month.

"I shrugged it off and won the gold anyway, but any athlete in my position who didn't have the same mental tenacity would have crumbled," added the 26-year-old.

"I do not doubt Volker's intentions, but his methods have been ineffective at best, and disruptive at worst... With a better temperament, maybe we can really see his true (worth)."

Not all athletes had negative experiences with Herrmann, though.

Sprinter Timothee Yap, who worked with the 33-year-old as a member of the 4x100m relay, said the German had "imbued confidence" in the men's relay team.

"Maybe he's relatively young for a technical director and his emotions or age might have interfered with his professionalism in certain aspects, but to me I feel he has been fair to me and the men's 4x100m relay (team)," said the 22-year-old.

He acknowledged that Herrmann had strong opinions about how certain things should be conducted, but said that disagreements over training plans were usually settled by "voicing out and rationalising".

He added: "I feel deep down he really wants to improve the athletics scene in Singapore and he has a lot of ideas, but some athletes, coaches and administrators may not be on the same page as him."

Herrmann declined to comment on the complaints made against him, but said: "I see the potential of our athletes and I think they can not only succeed at the SEA Games, but also at Asian and continental levels. In the end, we have to work together to offer a training and development programme for this to happen."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'SA chief vows to probe complaints'. Print Edition | Subscribe