Sprint queen Shanti Veronica Pereira rewrites national women’s 100m mark

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Singapore's Shanti Veronica Pereira taking the lead during the Singapore Open Track and Field Championship 2015 100m Heats (W) at the Singapore Sports Hub on 04 April 2015 (Photo by Stephen Lim/Sport Singapore)

Singapore sprinter Shanti Veronica Pereira set the field alight on the first day of the 77th Singapore Open Track and Field Championship 2015 when she broke the national 100-metre record.

The 18-year-old ran 11.80 seconds to finish second in the 100m final at the National Stadium on Saturday (4 April), which eclipsed her old mark of 11.89s. Tri Setyo Utami of Indonesia won in 11.76s.

Her previous mark was set at the IAAF World Youth Championships in July 2013 in Donetsk, Ukraine, where she became the first Singaporean female to go below 12 seconds in the 100m.

Pereira’s time meant that she secured qualification for the 2015 SEA Games on home soil this June. It is also faster than the silver medal timing at the 2013 SEA Games, where Thailand’s Neeranuch Klomdee ran 11.85s. Vietnam’s Thi Huong Vu took gold in Myanmar with 11.59s.

Rewriting the national record took the sprint queen completely by surprise, as she had not clocked a sub-12 timing for the past year.

“I was just expecting to go below 12 seconds, but not so much below 12!” she exclaimed in delight after the race.

“I am really, really happy about this because I've been wanting to do it since last year. It’s been a year without doing this kind of timings. I've been doing only 12 seconds or more [and to end up] doing this, I am really happy.”

In her euphoria, Pereira did not even realise she met the qualifying benchmark for the Games, set at the bronze timing of 11.91s at the 2013 SEA Games.

Her eyes widened when this reporter told her she qualified.  “Oh yes, I didn’t even realise! That’s correct!”

The women’s relay team – which included Pereira – added to the day’s excitement by breaking the national record for the 4x100 metre race. Smriti Menon, Eugenia Tan Yan Ning, Wendy Enn and Pereira clocked 46.64s, beating the previous mark of 46.68s set at the 2007 SEA Games.

Pereira, in her third year of the Republic Polytechnic-Singapore Sports School programme, credited the programme for helping her achieve an optimal balance between academic commitments and training.

“It’s a through-train programme and the purpose is to allow you to train while staying in the Sports School,” she explained, adding that she trains five to six times weekly.

“The lecturers will come to the school [to teach]… It allows me to have the proper training environment that I need to be in my top form.”

Citing the “good” track at the new Stadium and the presence of overseas competitors as factors in helping her fly, the 1.64m-tall Pereira hopes she can soar higher at the Games.

Pereira, who finished fourth in 2013 with 11.99s, said, “There’s going to be people… who are going to be as fast than me, if not much faster, so it’s going to give me a much greater push to go as fast as I can.”

Another national record also fell on Saturday when 21-year-old Ang Chen Xiang ran 14.44s in the 110m men’s hurdles final to better Abdul Hakeem Abdul Halim’s 14.45s mark, which was set at the Taiwan Open in May 2012. He declined to be interviewed.

The Singapore 4x100m women's relay team of Shanti Veronica Pereira, Smriti Menon, Eugenia Tan Yan Ning, Wendy Enn (Photo by Teng Kiat)