Athletics: Singapore's Shanti Pereira's wild card entry to World Championships' 200m event

Shanti Pereira will hope to better her personal best in the 200m at the World Championships.
Shanti Pereira will hope to better her personal best in the 200m at the World Championships.ST FILE PHOTO

Shanti Pereira could not be more excited about her first trip to China.

But exploring Beijing as an eager tourist is the last thing on the sprinter's mind as she steps into the state-of-the-art Bird's Nest Stadium to compete in her maiden World Championships.

The 18-year-old is Singapore's sole representative at the ongoing competition.

She was handed a wild card by the International Association of Athletics Federations and will compete in the women's 200m, the event which saw her rocket to regional prominence after she won gold at the SEA Games in June.

It was the Republic's first sprint title in 42 years. While she also won a Games bronze in the 100m, she and her coach Margaret Oh have decided to focus on the longer race, which is her pet event.

Said Shanti, who is competing for the first time since the biennial Games on home soil: "We felt it was better to concentrate on one event and try my best to run a good race in the 200m.

"This is a different level of competition compared to anything I've ever been to and I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can from some world-class sprinters."

Despite the absence of 2012 Olympic champion and Shanti's idol Allyson Felix, who has opted to concentrate on the 400m, the 200m will still feature an elite field.

That includes Jamaican duo Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (defending champion) and Veronica Campbell-Brown (2004 and 2008 Olympic champion) as well as American Candyce McGrone.

The latter has set the year's second-fastest time (22.08sec) behind her team-mate Felix.

The heats are on Wednesday though the odds are stacked against Shanti progressing to the semi-finals later that evening.

The Republic Polytechnic student's personal best (also the national record), which she set at the SEA Games, is 23.60sec.

It puts her 59th out of the 60 registered competitors and their season's best timings.

While her 100m splits in training have been decent in the lead-up to the championships, Shanti admitted there is still uncertainty about how she will perform in her first competitive outing in two months.

It is a sentiment shared by Singapore Athletics vice-president (training and selection) C. Kunalan, who feels that there will be other takeaways for her besides timesheets.

"One of the main things is for her to gain as much international exposure as possible," said the former national sprinter and two-time Olympian. "This is a big meet and she has to learn not to be overawed by the atmosphere.

"Shanti took a short break after the SEA Games so if she can come close to her PB or even break it, that would be a positive step."

It would also represent a move in the right direction as she attempts to qualify for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She has until July 11 next year to meet the qualifying time of 23.20sec or hope for another wild card.

She said: "I just have to keep working hard and believe in my training.

"I've seen the results and I know I can improve."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Shanti looks to gain experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe