Sky's the limit for Shanti
German coach Herrmann says sprinter can smash national marks and even qualify for Olympics
First the 2017 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, then the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
German track and field coach Volker Herrmann is "100 per cent" sure that Singapore's sprint queen Shanti Pereira will excel at the biennial games in Kuala Lumpur.
The 32-year-old also believes she has the potential to qualify for the Olympics.
Herrmann, currently the head sprint coach of the Bavarian state team in Germany, has been working with Shanti and her coach, Margaret Oh, for the past two months, first in Singapore and then in Munich.
The German said that Shanti, the 2015 SEA Games women's 200m gold medallist, is on track to break her 100m and 200m national records next year.
"I am 100 per cent sure, if she is free from injuries, that she would be able to break her 100m and 200m records next summer," Herrmann told The New Paper yesterday.
Shanti's record in the blue riband event stands at 11.80sec, and 23.60sec in the 200m event.
Both were set last year.
Herrmann has been working with both the 20-year-old and Oh to cut down on her competition load, while adjusting her training intensity.
He said: "Lots of Singapore athletes deal with too many competitions throughout the season; you can compete nearly every month if you want to.
"But, if you are competing every month, there's no space to develop your skills."
The trio rescheduled the sprinter's 2017 plans, such that there are two blocks of competitions next year before the SEA Games, interspersed with training phases.
The sprinter will be subjected to high-intensity sessions during the training phase, during which she may go up to 90 to 95 per cent of her maximum speed, but with fewer sessions to account for recovery.
Herrmann noted that Shanti has good foundation, but it is time to work specifically on areas that would benefit her sprinting - physical strength, speed work and technique.
He said: "While it is hard to predict the development of an athlete, if she is able to make positive adjustments concerning her speed, I am sure that qualifying for the 2020 Olympics could become a goal for her.
"It needs to be her long-term goal, and I am sure she has the ability to go there."
A call to change training mindsets
For a coach who preaches quality over quantity, German Volker Herrmann thinks it's time to change the practices of local sprints and jumps coaches.
The German said that a sprinter or jumper's training can be more productive if there is more emphasis on intensity, rather than volume.
And that is why he would rather push an athlete near his maximum capability over six to nine sessions a week, rather than put them through relatively lighter sessions 10 to 12 times a week.
The 32-year-old Bavarian state sprints coach said yesterday: "The local athletes have huge potential but, by talking to the athletes and some coaches, the old kind of training system, from Eastern Europe, seem to have an influence here, whereby coaches did a lot of volume training.
"That method is no longer working, especially in speed-related events... the modern approach is to increase your performance through the quality or intensity of your training."
Fast-twitch muscles, crucial in speed-related events, develop when athletes push themselves near their limits, said Herrmann, who has been an International Association of Athletics Federations lecturer since 2013.
He was in town in October, on Singapore Athletics' (SA) invitation, to work with national athletes such as sprinter Shanti Pereira, jumper Michelle Sng and hurdler Ang Chen Xiang.
“The local athletes have huge potential but, by talking to the athletes and some coaches, the old kind of training system, from Eastern Europe, seem to have an influence here, whereby coaches did a lot of volume training. That method is no longer working.”
He also conducted seminars for local coaches, and is working with SA to come up with a developmental strategy.
He came to Singapore again yesterday, and will stay for about a week to continue his consultancy work with SA.
While Herrmann acknowledged that changing the mindsets of local coaches and athletes accustomed to volume-based training may be tough, he believes that everyone is on "the same page".
"My impression is that people here are willing to learn, that there are smart coaches here and they are rethinking their own ideas as well," said the former middle-distance runner, who started coaching when he was 17.
"We are on the same page: we want to improve the athletes' performance. Of course there are different ways, and coaches need to figure out which way fits best for the athlete."
The New Paper previously reported that Herrmann is in town for negotiations to take up the SA technical director post.
Asked if he is keen on a permanent role here, he said: "There are some discussions going on; I like this country, I like the athletes, I guess it would be great to support the coaches and athletes.
"But I can't say anything more specific now because there are still some negotiations going on." - LIM SAY HENG