Olympics: S'pore sprinter Shanti Pereira happy with Tokyo experience, excited about 2022 meets

Shanti Pereira (second from left) finished sixth in heat 5 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, on Aug 2, 2021 ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Pereira, whose personal best of 23.60 set in 2015 is a national record, did not advance to Monday's semi-finals. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

TOKYO - The world's fastest woman casually brushed shoulders with Singapore's quickest on Monday (Aug 2) morning at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

Just as she wrapped up her chat with the media at the mixed zone after her 200m heats race, the Republic's Shanti Pereira turned around to find two-time Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica passing through the narrow walkway just behind her.

Moments earlier Pereira had clocked a season's best time of 23.96 seconds to finish sixth in heat 5. The time, which was short of her national record of 23.60 set en route to winning gold at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, placed her 39th out of 41 overall.

Pereira said she was "quite happy" and "satisfied" at going under 24 seconds, having not run in a major race since the SEA Games in Philippines in December 2019.

She had clocked 23.72 in a Performance Trial race at the Home of Athletics in Kallang in November and asked if she was disappointed at not bettering that mark, she said: "It would have been ideal to do that or hit a (personal best), but considering everything I'm quite happy with this result."

Pereira's heat was led by Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas in 22.76 sec, while Jamaica's 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson - third-fastest in the world over the distance this year - committed a terrible error where she eased up too much and was overhauled on the line to finish fourth in 23.26 sec and surprisingly missed the cut for the semi-finals.

Jackson did not bother to glance across and almost came to a stop as Italy's Dalia Kaddari slipped four-thousandths of a second in front of her to snatch the third automatic slot.

For 24-year-old Pereira, who is ranked 370th in the world and competed in Tokyo on a universality place - previously known as a wildcard - getting the opportunity to share the same stage with some of the world's top sprinters was a thrill.

While she said it was "easy to get distracted" by the big names, she added: "I know I won't be the top (runner) here for sure, so for me it really is just about focusing on myself."

Pereira added she felt she executed her race well for the most part but declined to delve too far into analysing it, saying she needed to consult coach Luis Cunha first.

Regardless, she believes her Olympic adventure, which she has "embraced" has already put her in good stead ahead of a busy 2022 in which the SEA Games, Asian Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games are all scheduled.

"I'm just thankful I got to race (in a major meet) this year," she said. "Under the circumstances, and that it's the Olympics, it's crazy. I get to experience the atmosphere, the stadium, the heats, everything.

"Hopefully it's a good way to prepare for all the competitions next year."

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