A win for the ages

Far left: Shanti Pereira receiving the award from ST sports editor Marc Lim for her 200m victory in the SEA Games (left). With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.
(Above) Shanti Pereira receiving the award from ST sports editor Marc Lim for her 200m victory in the SEA Games. With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.PHOTO: SINGSOC/ ACTION IMAGES, ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Far left: Shanti Pereira receiving the award from ST sports editor Marc Lim for her 200m victory in the SEA Games (left). With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.
Shanti Pereira receiving the award from ST sports editor Marc Lim for her 200m victory in the SEA Games (above). With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.PHOTO: SINGSOC/ ACTION IMAGES, ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Shanti's 200m gold, national record fulfil dream, can spark local athletics' revival

The shimmering gold medal - proof of her historic run - sits cushioned in its case in her bedroom.

She has seen replays of the race countless times, sat through media interviews, and even been congratulated by the Prime Minister himself.

But more than a month after the SEA Games, Shanti Pereira still pinches herself each day, unsure if she is really the region's fastest woman over 200m, or whether it is just a wild dream.

"It's really something nobody expected - even for myself," said the 18-year-old, who also won a bronze in the 100m.

"I knew I had a chance to win a medal, but I never thought I would come out of it a winner."

First to cross the finish line in 23.60sec - lowering her own national record for the second time in a day - Shanti became the first Singaporean to win the event since Glory Barnabas in 1973, ending the country's 42-year wait for a second gold medal.

She was also a member of the quartets that set new national records in the 4x100m and 4x400m, finishing fourth in both.

The latter, in particular, was a mark that had stood for nearly 41 years, since the Teheran Asian Games in September 1974.

Shanti's feats earned her the nod for The Straits Times' Star of the Month award for the month of June, the first instalment of the accolade given out for the year.

The award is an extension of ST's Athlete of the Year accolade, launched in 2008. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.

Said ST's sports editor Marc Lim: "In a month where Team Singapore athletes made history at the SEA Games, there was no shortage of outstanding athletic performances to choose from.

"But there was never any doubt that Shanti's win in the 200m tugged at the heartstrings more than anything else. If the old National Stadium is remembered for Singapore football's Malaysia League and Cup heyday, then Shanti's run is also an iconic moment for the new stadium.

"It ignited much-needed hope in the local athletics scene, and was a win that truly had the whole nation's backing."

Indeed, it is the public outpouring of support from strangers that has surprised Shanti the most since. She has been stopped on the street - even when she is not dressed in sports attire - for photos, autographs, or simply sincere handshakes from people saying how proud they are of her.

She said: "That's very nice to hear because I really trained hard for this. The fact that it paid off is very nice.

"I was happy when I won the gold medal, but I didn't realise that it was as big as ending a 42-year wait.

"I've had many good moments, like when I broke the national 100m and 200m records - but this definitely topped it all."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'A WIN FOR THE AGES'. Print Edition | Subscribe