Shanti Pereira thankful for race opportunity, sets season's best
The world's fastest woman casually brushed shoulders with Singapore's quickest yesterday morning at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
As she wrapped up her chat with the media at the mixed zone after her 200m heat, Shanti Pereira turned around to find two-time Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica passing through the narrow walkway just behind her.
Moments earlier, Pereira had clocked a season's best of 23.96 seconds to finish sixth out of six runners in Heat 5.
The time, which fell short of her national record of 23.60sec set en route to winning gold at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, placed her 39th out of 41 overall.
Pereira, 24, said she was "quite happy" and "satisfied" at going under 24 seconds, having not run in a major race since the Philippines SEA Games in December 2019.
She had clocked 23.72sec in a Performance Trial race at Kallang last November and, when asked if she was disappointed at not bettering that mark, she said: "It would have been ideal to do that or hit a (personal best), but considering everything, I'm quite happy with this result."
Pereira's heat was won by Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas in 22.76sec.
There was added drama when Jamaica's Shericka Jackson, third-fastest in the world over the distance this year and 100m bronze medallist, committed a terrible error when she eased up and was overhauled on the line to finish fourth in 23.26sec and missed the cut for the semi-finals.
Jackson did not bother to glance across and almost came to a stop as Italy's Dalia Kaddari sneaked in to snatch the third automatic slot by four-thousandths of a second.
For Pereira, who is ranked 370th in the world and competed in Tokyo on a universality place - previously known as a wild card - getting the opportunity to share the same stage with some of the world's top sprinters was a thrill.
While she said it was "easy to get distracted" by the big names, she added: "I know I won't be the top (runner) here for sure, so it really is just about focusing on myself."
She added that she felt she executed her race well for the most part but declined to delve too far into analysing it, saying she needed to consult coach Luis Cunha first.
Regardless, she believes her Olympic adventure, which she has "embraced", has already put her in good stead ahead of a busy schedule next year in which the SEA Games, Asian Games, world championships and Commonwealth Games will be held.
"I'm just thankful I got to race (in a major meet) this year," she said. "Under the circumstances, and that it's the Olympics, it's crazy...
"Hopefully, it's a good way to prepare for all the competitions next year."