Controversial Singapore Athletics technical director Volker Herrmann quits

Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong clashed with Singapore Athletic Association technical director Volker Herrmann before the 2017 SEA Games marathon race. (FILE PHOTO:  Stanley Cheah/Sport Singapore)

Controversial Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) technical director Volker Herrmann has resigned, and will serve his last day on 2 December, an SAA media statement said on Wednesday (14 November).

The 34-year-old German said in the statement: “It has been a rewarding experience working in Singapore over the past 19 months. I would like to thank SAA and all other partner agencies for the opportunity to help develop the sport in Singapore, and I look forward to other opportunities to work with SAA on future projects and development.”

He plans to continue consultancy work with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Asian Athletics Association’s Regional Development Centre.

Run-ins with national athletes

Herrmann joined SAA full-time in March 2017, and helped to provide technical advice to the Ministry of Education in redesigning Junior Division track-and-field events at the Primary School National School Games. He was also an active proponent of coaches’ education.

Before the SAA appointment, he was the head coach for the Bavarian sprint team and is also an IAAF-accredited lecturer in sprint and jump events.

However, his tenure was filled with run-ins with national athletes. Formal complaints were filed against him last year by Dipna Lim-Prasad (sprints/hurdles), Rachel Yang (pole vault) and Soh Rui Yong (marathon).

Lim-Prasad, a double silver medallist at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, had raised concerns as she felt Herrmann had been undermining her coach Luis Cunha throughout the season.

Yang, the national record holder, had clashed with the German over whether to field youth pole vaulter Cherlin Sia for a competition.

And Soh, a two-time SEA Games marathon champion, alleged that Herrmann had shouted at him before the start of the 2017 SEA Games marathon race, a claim supported in an SAA post-Games report. Herrmann had since apologised for being “too emotional”.

Controversial WhatsApp conversation

Herrmann was also involved in a controversial WhatsApp conversation in June last year, which appeared to show former SAA vice-president Govindasamy Balasekaran instructing staff to collect evidence so that disciplinary action could be taken against local coaches Margaret Oh and David Yeo.

Soh told The Straits Times, “We’d be wise to learn from this lesson: Foreign and well-certified do not always equal to better. The candidate has to have soft skills, be adaptable and humble enough to learn the local context and help coaches and athletes along.

“I wish Volker all the best in his future pursuits and hope this was a good learning experience for him.”

Despite these controversies, recently-appointed SAA president Tang Weng Fei thanked the German in the media statement, saying, “He has put in place some good structures in regard to coaches’ education and how competitions should look like at the primary level. The fraternity thanks him for all his contributions and efforts and helping us improve athletics in Singapore.”

New coaching and development sub-committee

SAA also announced on Wednesday that it has formed a coaching and development sub-committee, chaired by its vice-president of training and selection, Malik Aljunied. He will be assisted by vice-president of finance and partnerships Poh Seng Song, a former national sprinter.

The committee will oversee the development of athletics coaches in Singapore, including coaches’ education programmes for current and budding coaches.

SAA will also appoint in due course head coaches for the various event groups – sprints and hurdles, middle and long distance and road races, throws, jumps and combined events.

Other Singapore stories:

As long as I’m happy, I know I’m going to go fast: Joseph Schooling

‘Sloppy’ Singapore fall to Philippines to cede advantage at AFF Suzuki Cup

Singapore medallists’ reward scheme renamed Major Games Award Programme