SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network) A performance for the ages. Mind-boggling. Smashed it. The descriptions were as varied as they were consistent. Everyone within the Singapore track and field community and beyond were blown away by what Shanti Pereira had done at the Asian Games on Monday (Oct 2) night.
Singapore Athletics president Lien Choong Luen described her victory in the 200m, the country’s first Asiad athletics title since Chee Swee Lee’s gold at the 1974 Games, as “one for the ages”.
He added: “Forty-nine years ago, Swee Lee blitzed the 400m, and now we have our next gold medal.
“We’ve seen consistent improvements in her performances from the Hanoi SEA Games to this year’s World Championship semi-finals.
“Invaluable in this journey were coach Luis (Cunha) as well as her family and friends, but most importantly, her own self-belief.”
Former national sprinter U.K. Shyam, whose 100m record was broken by Marc Louis last Saturday, was in full agreement at how Pereira, 27, has raised the bar.
He said: “I wasn’t surprised that she got the gold. It’s a new paradigm in Singapore sprinting and athletics. Her season is nothing short of spectacular, and it’s mind-boggling. It’s amazing, I never thought that we would see this in my lifetime.”
Retired sprinter C. Kunalan, 80, who has one silver and four bronzes from the Asian Games, flagged Pereira’s tears of joy and gratitude during the medal ceremony.
He said her feat will not only inspire athletes to keep trying, but is also a great lesson for coaches.
Breaking down the race, he said: “She was calm at the start. Leading all the way, that is fantastic.
“The last 30m was strong. The slow motion (replay) showed her heels were high at the butt during the last 30 to 40m.”
Dipna Lim-Prasad, 32, who holds four national records, reacted with two words – “smashed it” – once Pereira crossed the finish line.
“It’s even more amazing when you consider the marathon of a season she’s had. It’s testament to many things, our athletes, but also the support system that has been a solid foundation for them,” she said.
“Our team have shown they have been working hard and the results show it. Not to forget Marc’s 100m national record, which is a huge milestone also. Last Asian Games, we had only one athlete who qualified for the finals. Now, we have more.”
For national marathoner Soh Rui Yong, 32, Pereira’s sporting career has been a lesson in perseverance.
He said: “Having first met Shanti in 2014 in Oregon when she was there for World Juniors as a bespectacled, nervous teenager who seemed to love shopping more than sprinting, her journey has been one of finding oneself.
“She’s today a confident, motivated athlete able to thrive on pressure rather than letting it break her down, like it did between 2017 and 2018.”
Both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tharman Shanmugaratnam sent their congratulations.
President Tharman said in a Facebook post: “Shanti shows what we can achieve. With personal guts and determination. First class coaches. Strong and patient support from our national bodies. And a population cheering for our sportspersons.”
The future is certainly bright, noted Lien, adding: “I hope this gold medal will inspire a new generation of young girls and boys watching her that we can be world beaters too... even in the most competitive disciplines of track and field.”