Singapore sprint queen Shanti Pereira yesterday vanquished the demons of a "very bad" year, as she won the women's 200m at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships in 23.87 seconds, meeting the SEA Games qualifying mark of 23.92sec.
She finished ahead of Malaysians Zaidatul Zulkifli (23.94sec) and Komal Selvaratnam (24.30sec) yesterday morning at the National Stadium.
The Games qualifying mark is pegged at the bronze medal result of the previous edition.
Shanti did not celebrate immediately after the race, but eventually pumped her fists when she saw the official results appear on the stadium screen.
Referring to the 23.60sec feat that won her gold at the 2015 SEA Games at the same venue, she told The Straits Times: "I'm just very happy because I haven't gone under 24 seconds since then.
"(My timing today) may not have been a personal best, but I was just waiting for that number - that 23."
The 20-year-old is confident of being on the right track to retain her 200m crown at the Aug 19-30 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, despite knowing that she will enter this year's competition with a target on her back.
Revealing that she had struggled all of last year to cope with the pressure of following up on her SEA Games triumph, she said: "This year, I'm taking it in my stride and just taking it as it is. The pressure is there - there's nothing I can do about it except train hard."
Her coach Margaret Oh believes Shanti could have made a better start yesterday, but was still happy with her charge's performance.
"From this run, I know roughly where she is now and we'll fine-tune here and there over the next few months so she will do better at the SEA Games," said Oh, who has been coaching Shanti for almost seven years.
Later in the afternoon, Shanti also won the 100m in 11.87sec. Compatriots Dipna Lim-Prasad and Wendy Enn ensured a podium sweep for Singapore as they posted 12.25sec and 12.34sec respectively.
Enn was one of two athletes who smashed national records on the final day of the two-day meet. She leapt 12.05m in the triple jump to break Lynette Lim's 11.89m record set in 2014.
The 23-year-old finished in second place behind Vietnam's Vu Thi Men (13.27m).
The second national mark that fell yesterday was the women's 3,000m steeplechase record. Cheryl Chan broke her previous record of 11min 45.16sec, clocking 11:42.20 to win the three-woman final ahead of Vanessa Lee (11:45.09) and Nicole Low (12:14.14).
Said the 21-year-old: "I was trying to improve on my (record), but (my timing) was shy of 11:30, which was what I had hoped to achieve.
"I feel my speed endurance is not the best yet and there's still a lot to work on - the (recovery) time between my barriers could be improved as well."
Singapore finished the Open with four golds, seven silvers and nine bronzes. The hosts were placed fourth, behind Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.