Unexpected. That’s how sprinter Shanti Veronica Pereira described her achievement in the women’s 100m final, a feat that ended Singapore’s 42-year wait for a medal in the event.
In front of a boisterous home crowd at the National Stadium, Singapore’s sprint queen blazed to third place in 11.88s.
Eng Chiew Guay’s gold in the 1973 then-SEAP Games – held on home soil as well – was the last time Singapore medalled in the women’s blue riband event. Pereira’s bronze is also Singapore’s fifth-ever medal, with Glory Barnabas’ 1969 silver and 1967 bronze, and Eng’s 1971 bronze the other four.
The 18-year-old, who holds both the national records for the 100m (11.80s) and 200m (23.99s), was surprised with her win as she usually fares better in the 200m.
A ‘bonus’ medal
“Coming here, I really wanted to get a medal in front of the home fans and I managed to get one in my 100m, which is really unexpected because there were many really good competitors with me and they had much better timings,” said Pereira, who was only the fifth-fastest qualifier from the morning’s heats.
“But I think I really took this race as one that I just thought that I really had to do my best in, and everything else that comes with it would actually just be a bonus, so it paid off and I managed to get a bronze medal.
“When I looked at the replay and saw that I got third, I literally jumped!”
Pereira attributed her medal to a fast start, which saw her lead the race at the halfway mark, although she eventually fell behind. Filipino Kayla Anise Richardson won the race by virtue of a photo finish, with Thailand’s Tassaporn Wannakit snagging silver as both registered 11.76s.
That made it a clean sweep for the Philippines in the day’s 100m events, with Eric Shauwn Cray storming to gold in the men’s event in 10.25s.
Singapore’s Calvin Kang clocked a personal best of 10.47s to finish 0.02s behind third-placed Iswandi of Indonesia and ahead of defending champion Jirapong Meenapra of Thailand. Amiruldin Jamal, the other Singaporean sprinter and the 2013 bronze medallist, finished sixth in 10.55s.
Home crowd cheers on Pereira to make history
Pereira hailed the crowd as a “major” factor in her win, explaining that she was more used to being intimidated by other home crowds when she competes overseas.
“I normally don’t get the cheers I did today… [but] today I have my fellow Singaporeans and it was great,” she beamed. “I moved back [from the finish line after the race] and I cheered to the crowd and I think they were a major part of my win today.”
The result will also give Pereira a “confidence boost” ahead of her three other events in the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
“The first race, in the heats, was the one I was crazy nervous [about] because it was the first race,” she said.
“After that, my nerves just like ‘broke free’ and after this run, I’m really excited to race [my remaining events].”