She spoke no words right after the race but the tears that Shanti Pereira shed revealed her sorrow and disappointment after she failed to retain her 200m crown.
The 20-year-old claimed the SEA Games bronze in a season-best 23.68 seconds at Bukit Jalil National Stadium last night, but was inconsolable for the better part of an hour as coach Margaret Oh and athletics team manager Yip Ren Kai tried to comfort her.
Vietnam’s Le Tu Chinh, who won the 100m final the previous day, accomplished the sprint double by taking home the gold in 23.32sec. Home favourite Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli was second in 23.64sec.
Oh, who was also in tears as she saw her protege’s anguish, believes it was the self-inflicted pressure of seeking a successful title defence that eventually got to Pereira.
Revealing that she thought the national 100m and 200m record holder had stood a good chance of retaining her title, Oh said: “Her training times showed a lot of improvement. During training she was going faster than in 2015.
“I think it was more of the pressure she felt ... she was frightened of herself.”
In the months leading up to the Kuala Lumpur Games, Pereira had also been caught in the middle of a disagreement between Singapore Athletics and its local coaches.
Asked if she thought the incident had affected Pereira, Oh said: “I think (it did) slightly, because she also wanted to prove to other people that she actually could do it.”
Looking despondent as she stood on the podium, Pereira mustered a smile only after Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin, who was presenting the medals, performed an elaborate handshake with her after handing her the bronze medal.
Addressing the media after the victory ceremony as she fought back her tears, Pereira, who declined to take questions, said: “Things didn’t go as planned today, but I’d like to thank everyone who was a part of my journey. I’m really grateful to them... to my coach who has been with me for so long.
“I gave my best today, I did the best I could do and I just want to thank everyone.”