Shanti ends Singapore's 42-year drought
Shanti's 100m bronze raises emotions among thousands of home fans at National Stadium
Veronica Shanti Pereira made a number of people cry at the National Stadium yesterday.
Her coach Margaret Oh and former national 4x100 metres sprinter Andrew Chee, who is now residing in Sydney, were among those who could not contain their emotions.
But the 18-year-old sprinter need not worry, they were all tears of joy.
Shanti became the first Singapore woman to win an individual sprint medal at the SEA Games since Eng Chiew Guay (100m) and Glory Barnabas (200m) triumphed in 1973, when it was known as the South-east Asian Peninsular Games.
She clocked 11.88sec to pick up the bronze medal in the women's 100m.
Filipina-American Kayla Richardson edged out Thailand's Tassaporn Wanakit in a photo-finish to claim gold, after both runners clocked 11.76sec.
Bursting out of the blocks with a uncharacteristically good start, Shanti was neck and neck with Richardson and Tassaporn at the 50m mark.
Although she could not keep pace until the end, Shanti held off Malaysia's Zaidatul Husniah Zulkiffli, the fastest qualifier.
"My coach told me before the race that all I needed was a good start, and (a medal) was mine," said Shanti.
Still catching her breath at the finish line and digesting the magnitude of her achievement, the Republic Polytechnic leisure management student was given a surprise when President Tony Tan Keng Yam congratulated her.
"He congratulated me and said he was very excited for me... I just told him I didn't know my time," a laughing Shanti told The New Paper.
The teenager, who is the national record-holder in both the 100m (11.80sec) and 200m (23.99sec), came agonisingly close to a medal on her Games debut in Myanmar 18 months ago. She finished fourth in both events.
Even after a few hours, Shanti still could not believe she had ended Singapore's 42-year wait for a women's sprints medal.
"On the way back to the hotel, I held the medal in my hands on the bus and kept looking at it and thinking: 'Wow, I really won a medal.'
"I'm going to dream about it tonight. Maybe after that, it'll sink in."
Her sister Valerie was one of the nearly 8,000 spectators who crammed the grandstand to cheer her on.
The 25-year-old, a former national sprinter herself, said: "I'm very proud, there's no other way to say it. She takes things in her stride and gives her best on the track, so I think there's more to come from her."
Former national athlete Oh, Shanti's coach since she was a Secondary 2 student at the Singapore Sports School, said: "I'm so proud of her... I actually cried.
"It's good that local athletics is showing improvement, and I hope there are many more young talent to come.
"If they have the same mentality as Shanti, they can go far."
In the men's pole vault, Thailand's Porranot Purahong won with a Games record of 5.30m, smashing compatriot Kreeta Sintawacheewa's 5.21m mark set in 2013.
The Philippines' Ernest John Obiena (5.25m) bagged the silver while Malaysia's Iskandar Alwi (5.05m) settled for bronze.
Singapore's Chan Sheng Yao (4.95m) and Sean Lim (4.75m) were fourth and fifth respectively.
There was also a Games record in the men's triple jump, after Malaysia's Hakimi Ismail leapt 16.76m to claim gold. Thailand's Varunyoo Kongnil (16.20m) and Vietnam's Nguyen Van Hung (15.92m) took the other medals.
Singapore's Stefan Tseng (15.52m) and Dylan Wong (13.94m) finished fifth and eighth, respectively.
Athletics gold medallists among new breed of mixed-heritage Filipinos
BIG DAY: Caleb Stuart's hammer title is one of three athletics gold won by the Philippines yesterday. - PHOTO: SINGSOC/ACTION IMAGES
It has worked in recent years for their football team, and it did the trick again on Sunday when the Philippines won the men's rugby 7s gold medal at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Now, the Filipinos also look like they are shaping up to be a formidable regional force in track and field following the emergence of several mixed heritage athletes.
It was a day to remember for the Philippines after they clinched three of the eight gold medals on offer on the opening day of the track and field programme at the National Stadium yesterday.
Leading the way was Eric Cray, who produced a scintillating run to become the first Filipino to win the men's 100m gold medal, leaving the rest of the field in his wake with a time of 10.25sec.
Like Kayla Richardson and Caleb Stuart, who won the women's 100m and men's hammer throw respectively, yesterday, Cray is born to an American father but qualifies to represent Philippines through his mother.
But, unlike most of his mixed-blood compatriots, Cray was actually born in the country and hails from Olongapo, Zambales.
And he believes there should not be any doubt over the legitimacy of him representing Philippines.
"I definitely have Filipino blood," he said, with a wry grin.
"I think we're seeing more and more athletes with similar origins, but the most important thing is that we know and cherish the traditions of Filipino people.
"My mother is a Filipina and I was born and raised there, before moving to the United States.
"I'm just proud to represent the country of my mother, which I also regard as my country."
Kayla, 17, completed a sprint double for the country when she pipped Thailand's Tassapon Wannakit in a photo-finish to bag the women's 100m with a time of 11.76sec.
As part of this new wave of athletes, the teenager is optimistic it could spell a golden era in Philippines track and field.
She said: "You better believe it… Philippines are coming up!
"I was born in California but my mother is Filipino, and I've been representing Philippines for three to four years now.
"I'm just happy to represent my country and I'm glad I was able to do what I came here to do, which was to win the gold medal."
Rounding off an excellent outing for the Philippines was Stuart's triumph in the hammer throw.
His best was a distance of 65.63m, which eclipsed the previous Games record by 3.4m.
The 24-year-old is also competing in the discus and shot put and will be gunning for gold in the latter discipline this evening, although he faces stiff competition from Games' record holder, Chatchawal Polyiam of Thailand.
The gap between the Philippines’ Caleb Stuart vicrtorious hammer throw of 65.63m to this year’s best result, the 82.76m set by Poland’s Pawel Fajdek.