Shanti poised to end 42-year wait
Teenage sprinter Shanti Pereira eager to end Singapore’s drought in the women’s 100m and 200m
National sprint sensation Shanti Pereira is a teenager on a mission.
She wants to finish on the podium in the women’s 100m and 200m events.
She wants to become the first Singaporean woman to win a sprint medal since Eng Chiew Guay (100m) and Glory Barnabas (200m) triumphed at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games.
The national record holder in both distances came painfully close to doing it on her South-east Asia (SEA) Games debut in Myanmar in 2013.
The near misses still rankle, but she is ready to write a new chapter on home soil.
“At that moment, right after the race, it didn’t really sink in,” the 18-year-old said of her 2013 Games experience, pulling a tortured look.
“But after that... What!? Only 0.03sec? My goodness. Seeing the time difference makes me go ‘Wah, I could have done it’.”
She was referring to her pet 200m event, where she clocked 24.16sec, just 0.03s behind Vietnam’s bronze medallist Thi Oanh Nguyen.
She wasn’t far behind, too, in the 100m, where she clocked 11.99sec, just 0.08s slower than third-placed Tassaporn Wanakit of Thailand.
Shanti added: “It was my first SEA Games, I was just 17, so the experience was the main thing I was looking for.
“It was the biggest open meet I had been a part of, and it was a lot to take in.
“I think I was the youngest participant in all my races so I was exceptionally nervous.”
But the third-year leisure management student at Republic Polytechnic did not let the disappointment bog her down.
She has since lowered her bests in the two events (11.80sec and 23.99sec), and, going by the times clocked in Myanmar, is considered a prospect for silver medals in both.
She picked out Tassaporn, and another Thai, Neeranuch Klomdee, who won silver in 2013, as her main rivals.
Unheralded Malaysian Zaidatul Husniah, who has recently picked up form and has a personal best of 11.85sec, is the dark horse.
Said Shanti: “I don’t have specific colours in mind, but I definitely want a medal in my 200m, because I’m more confident in that event.”
The teenager, who is inspired by US track star Allyson Felix, said she is proud to be part of a group of rising track and field talents, who are breaking long-standing records.
In the last six years, 18 new national records (out of 51 events) have been set, suggesting a bright future for a sport that has suffered a slump for the last two decades.
Of those marks, 13 were set by athletes born in or after 1991.
Said Shanti: “It feels like we’re bringing hope to the local athletics scene, and now there are more chances of our athletes medalling at the SEA Games.
“I can speak on behalf of all of us and say that we’re all very honoured to represent Singapore and to have a chance of bringing glory to our nation.”
She hopes that a vociferous home support will spur her and her teammates to greater heights at this Games. Entry to the 55,000-capacity National Stadium for the track and field events is free.
She said: “With the SEA Games being in Singapore for the first time in a long time, I really hope there will be a lot of supporters.”