Marathoner Neo targets personal best in Rio
Marathoner Neo wants to return from Olympics with a new personal best
She is no Joseph Schooling or Feng Tianwei - nobody is expecting local marathoner Neo Jie Shi to go to Rio and win an Olympic medal in August.
Her personal best is a 3:09:57 set last year, which is faster than just one of 107 runners who finished at the last Olympics in London, where Ethiopian Tiki Gelana won the gold medal with a new Games record of 2:23:07.
Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo was second in 2:23:12 and Russian bronze medallist Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova was 17 seconds behind.
But Neo will be there on merit, qualifying by virtue of her top-10 finish in an IAAF Gold Label Marathon - the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore last December - as per the IAAF qualification and entry standards for these Olympics.
While the 30-year-old candidly admitted to being "a bit overwhelmed" by the subsequent media attention, she rejected the notion that because there are no expectations, it will be all just fun and games at the Sambadrome.
"Yes, I may not be going for a medal, but I am still representing my country, and that is reason enough to do my best," said Neo, who was at Queenstown Swimming Complex yesterday morning to promote the Pocari Sweat Run on July 23.
Runners will combine their efforts to complete the final leg of Pocari Sweat's journey to the Moon at The Float @ Marina Bay.
Based on the philosophy of creating new products for better health worldwide, Otsuka Pharmaceutical is launching a Pocari Sweat capsule to the moon in the final quarter of the year.
In conjunction with the Lunar Dream Capsule Project, the Pocari Sweat Run aims to engage runners to contribute by taking part in either the 5km or 10km category to make up 80,000km of the 380,000km distance between the earth and the moon; 300,000km have been covered in the four years of the run here.
Likewise, Neo's journey to the Olympics, which are arguably the pinnacle of sport, has not come easy.
But, with dedication, perseverance and support from Singapore Athletics, Sport Singapore, Singapore Sports Institute and sponsors like Pocari Sweat, the finishing line is within sight.
The human resource and administration assistant manager at GP Batteries International has required physiotherapy to alleviate pain in her left heel due to wear and tear.
But she still runs 50 to 60km over five to six days per week, including two interval workouts, two to three "easy runs" over 10km, and one weekend long run under the watchful eye of coach Steven Quek, who was appointed as her coach in February.
And the results are showing.
She said: "I clocked my first sub-40 minute run in the 10km race at the Seoul Marathon in March.
"That was during the first phase of training which coach Steven had marked out for me, and showed that we are on track.
"The second phase comes later this month when I will go for a half-marathon. My personal best is around 1hr 31min, so I'm aiming to go under 90 minutes for this.
"We should start the final phase of preparations next month, when I will take on the full marathon to see where I stand.
"We have not confirmed plans for acclimatisation but, from my research, the climate is similar to Singapore's.
"To be honest, except for the media attention which can be a bit overwhelming, nothing much has changed.
"I'm still running and I still join Jurong Safra Running Club whenever I can.
"It still feels like a dream and I feel fortunate and lucky to be able to compete at the Olympics.
"Even if I'm not going to win, I want to go there, do well, and come back with a new personal best."
“Yes, I may not be going for a medal, but I am still representing my country, and that is reason enough to do my best.”
— Singapore’s Olympic-bound marathoner Neo Jie Shi