AZMI IBRAHIM COACHES SPORE SPRINTER

The Courts Young Lions have Vanda Sports Group behind them. The talent management and sports marketing agency been looking after the under-23 footballers’ off-pitch activities since the start of the 16th edition of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S-League last month.

It is still a work in progress and it remains to be seen if Singapore’s fickle football fans will throng the stadiums.

Fast forward two months and Singapore athletics has also jumped onto the professional sports management bandwagon, with the first beneficiaries being the men’s 4x100m relay team, who cracked the national record with their 39.82sec silver showing at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

Local company Pinnacle Sports Group have signed on Gary Yeo, Muhammad Elfi Mustapa, Muhd Amirudin Jamal and Calvin Kang – who replaced Lee Cheng Wei at the Commonwealth and Asian Games last year – for the programme.

Lee, who was hampered by a hamstring injury last year, could be included in future.

Managed by former national sprinter Frankie Lee, Pinnacle will assist the athletes with sponsorships, tailor customised plans to juggle studies, training and competitions, as well as plan their careers.

Speaking to MediaCorp yesterday, Lee said: “We work in consultation with the sportsmen and women, parents, schools, coaches, associations and sponsors to ensure the talents are well managed in all aspects of their lives, so that they can concentrate on improving.

“Each athlete will have a customised schedule, low risk investment trust fund asset up from their cash sponsorships, which will be managed by professional fund investors and planners, insurance, regular exposure to local and foreign media, and a strong fraternity of sports people to seek advice from.

“We are working with the SAA (Singapore Athletic Association) on other projects too, such as event sponsorship and are also in talks with other associations.”

According to Lee, Pinnacle had recently secured sponsorship from Australian company Body Science to provide high-tech compression suits for the four runners, which will help their minimise training injuries.

Pinnacle is also trying to seek employment for Elfi and Amirudin after they graduate from the National University of Singapore this year. Said Amirudin: “This saves us the hassle of sourcing for sponsors as it can take very long, and they are helping us to create a more professional image. “Hopefully, with their help we’ll be able to turn semi-professional when we graduate.”

The 24-year-old psychology student has also begun training with a new coach, former Malaysian sprinter Azmi Ibrahim, to improve on his individual speed. He ran the season’s best time of 10.53sec last year and hopes to finish in the medals at November’s SEA Games in Indonesia.

Amirudin will join other members of the squad, which is to be expanded to include more runners, for relay training under coordinator Melvin Tan once a week.

Tan, who worked with the SEA Games silver medal quartet, has outlined a series of races – the Philippines Open (May 20-22), Taipei Open (May 28-29), Sri Lanka Open (June 4-5), Ho Chi Minh Open (July 1-4) and the 19th Asian Track and Field Championships in Kobe (July 7-10) – for the team to qualify for the SEA Games.

They will have to equal or better the qualifying mark of 40.16sec – the bronze winning time in Laos.

Said Tan: “My target is to bring the individual speeds to below 10.60sec by July, and to go below 40.16sec by then.”