Dipna finally goes under 56sec for women’s 400m
Sprinter clocks 55.59sec in women's 400m and has Chee's 1974 record in her sights
As if clocking the best time by a Singaporean woman in the 400m for 42 years wasn't sweet enough, national sprinter Dipna Lim-Prasad enjoyed a post-race treat of pizzas and egg tarts.
The 25-year-old clocked a new personal best of 55.59sec at the Santo Antonio International Meet in Lisbon, Portugal, yesterday morning (Singapore time).
She finished third after going below the 56-second barrier for the first time, bettering her previous best of 56.23 clocked in 2013.
It is also the best result by a Singaporean in the event since Chee Swee Lee's 1974 national record of 55.08sec set at the Asian Games in Teheran.
Lim-Prasad was in shock when she saw her time on the scoreboard.
She told The New Paper: "As the times flashed one by one, I noticed that second-placed finisher clocked 54sec and then got excited, because I remember I wasn't so far behind her and I thought I had a good chance at getting a personal best.
"Then when I saw I got 55.59sec, I panicked a while because I thought it was a typo.
"I even checked with the (race organisers) to make sure there wasn't a mistake."
Lim-Prasad has been based in Lisbon on a training camp with Portuguese coach Luis Cunha and four other Singapore sprinters - Calvin Kang, Timothee Yap, Naqib Asmin and Lim Yao Peng - for about three weeks.
They will compete at the Portuguese Track and Field Championships this weekend before returning to Singapore.
Yap, 21, also had reason to smile after he posted a new personal best of 10.62sec in the 100m.
To mark their milestones, Lim-Prasad and Yap treated the team to a cheat meal of sorts.
"We had a rule leading up to the competition where athletes who beat their personal best would have to treat the whole team," said Lim-Prasad.
"So at night, we went out for pizza and egg tarts. And it was coach-approved!"
She added that the achievement was vindication for her persistence despite injury setbacks which have stalled her progress.
"It's been a long time coming," she said.
"At the Singapore Open (in April), I clocked 56.33sec in my first race back after three months out with an ankle injury, and it was a good time because it was close to my (previous) personal best.
"Then I raced in Hong Kong (57.11sec) and Taiwan (57.10sec) and my timings weren't great.
"I even had some people telling me I should give up, so it was a very difficult time for me.
"But, since I arrived here, my training times have been very consistent."
Thanking her husband, fellow national sprinter Poh Seng Song, family, friends, Cunha, sponsors Nike and the medical team at the Singapore Sports Institute, who helped her back on her feet after various injuries, Lim-Prasad said: "There will always be naysayers but I feel really lucky to have so many people who believe in me, too."
While Chee's long-standing record - the joint-oldest track and field national record, along with the men's 4x400m mark - is in her crosshairs, she is aiming higher.
"The problem is, I do better when I focus on the process of the race and what I have to do," she said.
"So I'm trying not to think about (the record) even though it's on the horizon.
"I have a goal, the national record is in that direction, and that's where I want to go.
"But that's not where I plan to stop."
When I saw I got 55.59sec, I panicked a while because I thought it was a typo.
— Dipna Lim-Prasad on her race at the Santo Antonio International Meet in Portugal