ST Young Star of the Month: From calamity to champion - RI's Grace Shani Anthony makes amazing comeback

Grace Shani Anthony, 17, has been named The Straits Times' Young Star of the Month, an award backed by 100Plus and given to school athletes who shone during the Schools National this year. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Grace Shani Anthony first tasted success at the Schools National track and field championships in 2017 when the then-Raffles Girls' School student won the B girls' 200 metres in 26 seconds.

Later that year, she was in the 4x100m bronze-winning team at the Asean School Games in Singapore.

Things were looking up for the teenager then. She was looking forward to moving up to the A Division and the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires was also on her radar.

But her dreams were dashed in December 2017 when she tore her left meniscus in a car accident while on holiday in California.

"I had a lot of plans and to have them all taken away was very shocking," said the 17-year-old, who also clinched the B Division 200m bronze in 2016.

She was out for nine months after her accident but could not stay away from the track.

"Watching them (teammates in training) made me feel sad. I missed track a lot because I genuinely enjoyed training. It was really fun and track is something I care a lot about," said Grace, now a Raffles Institution Year 6 student.

"It's the feeling I get, the adrenaline before every race. You can never get that feeling (elsewhere)."

She recalled feeling "insecure" in the first week she returned to training last September when she could not complete her workouts.

She added: "It was so hard because my body was not used to it, so training was very demoralising."

But she persevered and competed in the Singapore Athletics School Meet Episode 1 in January, when she won the 100m and 200m.

She recalled: "At the back of my head, I just kept thinking about my leg and how my competitors have been racing for the past two years while I was out. I felt a bit left behind in that sense.

"I was not race- or competition-fit. It was like a mental barrier; I had to be very careful about going faster in case the injury recurred."

The meet gave the lanky teenager a confidence boost, and she went on to win the A girls' 200m title in March in 26.09sec.

For her comeback, Grace has been named The Straits Times' Young Star of the Month, an award backed by 100Plus and given to school athletes who shone during the Schools National this year.

She credited her family, friends and especially coach Melvin Tan for helping her make a comeback.

Tan, who is also the national women's relay coach, called her performance "mind-blowing".

"It was through sheer determination that Grace fought her way back to form," he said.

Said ST deputy sports editor Lim Han Ming: "Being out for nine months with a serious injury may demoralise most athletes, but Grace managed to bounce back and become a champion again with her passion and sheer grit. Her comeback story is truly inspirational for all athletes in Singapore."

Grace, who hopes to represent Singapore, said: "I have to take my A levels this year, so I have to find a way to balance track and studies.

"I'm very grateful to be back. There is a sense of satisfaction because I have sort of managed to make up for last year. It can only get better from here."

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