Good times ahead for Shanti in June's SEA Games
Sixteen months ago, Shanti Pereira finished fourth in both the 100m and 200m events at the Myanmar South-east Asia (SEA) Games, less than one-tenth of a second behind third place in the two sprints.
She was the youngest finalist in both events - Shanti was 17 then - but the teenager was still sorely disappointed at finishing empty-handed.
Based on her performances at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium last weekend, she seems to have channelled that disappointing experience into positive energy.
On Saturday, she rewrote her own national record in the 100m en route to second spot, shaving 0.09sec off the 11.89sec she clocked in July 2013.
Yesterday, she ran an impressive 200m, finishing in 24sec flat, just shy of her national record of 23.99sec.
The signs are encouraging for Shanti, who is plotting to win Singapore's first medal in women's sprints at the SEA Games since 1973, when the region's biggest multi-sport event rolls into town in June.
"She's even hungrier now for the medal than she was in Myanmar," said her coach Margaret Oh.
"You can really see it in her."
Speaking to The New Paper later, the sprint star said: "I took the whole thing as a learning experience. Looking back, I was already quite lucky to finish fourth in both races at my first SEA Games, being just 17.
"Of course, right after the race, I felt down because of my time, and because I felt I wasn't at my best.
"But it has given me the motivation to get that first medal in June. Maybe, if I had won then, I would not have the same drive I have now."
Yesterday, the Republic Polytechnic student followed up her record-breaking feat 24 hours earlier with another eye-catching effort in the 200m, which is her pet event.
Starting in lane seven, Shanti burst out of the blocks and, within the first 15 metres, already managed to get in front of Indonesia's Irene Alisahbana, who started in lane eight.
By the halfway mark, the 18-year-old had built a comfortable lead over her nearest rival, Indonesian Tri Setyo Utami, who had beaten her in the 100m.
She confidently maintained the lead all the way to the finish line, finishing more than half a second ahead of Tri, who crossed the line in 24.59sec.
When asked about the margin of her victory, Shanti said: "I was quite shocked.
"But I know there will be more competitors when it comes to the SEA Games. The powerhouses like Thailand and Vietnam will be there.
"But, seeing the time I did today, I'm really excited and looking forward to running with them."
Meanwhile, in the men's 200m yesterday, Lee Cheng Wei (21.85sec) and Gary Yeo (21.96sec) emerged as the top two Singaporean runners, albeit outside the podium positions.
Taiwan's Yong Jun-han (20.96sec) and Wang Wen-tang (21.30sec) took the top two places, with Malaysian Yahya Izzuddin (21.41sec) finishing third.
Whether Lee and Yeo will be the Republic's representatives in the event at the SEA Games is still up in the air.
Singapore Athletics' vice-president (competitions organising) Loh Chan Pew said the body's executive committee will convene tonight to discuss and finalise the names that will be nominated to the Singapore National Olympic Council.
The exco will take into account factors such as injuries and consistency before arriving at a decision.