Athletics: Shanti happy to accept life's changes

Athletics: Shanti happy to accept life's changes
SOLE REPRESENTATIVE: Shanti Veronica Pereira will be competing in the 200m at the world championships in Beijing.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Once an ordinary face, today she is a recognised teenager.

With her rise to stardom, even strangers want to befriend her.

And some Singaporeans go to the extent of telling her that they are very proud of her.

In a flash, a fleeting finish, a mere 23.60 seconds, Shanti Veronica Pereira has seen her life change.

That was the time she took for the historic 200 metres sprint at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June.

That scintillating sprint raised her to the main podium at the National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.

And she rewrote the record books, the biggest imprint was made when she won Singapore's first sprint gold medal in 42 years. Glory Barnabas, the sprint queen of the 1973 Games, saw her name erased, but was happy about it.

So, too, were many Singaporeans who hailed Shanti's run as one of the best they had seen at the spanking new stadium. The 18-year-old Republic Polytechnic student is still overwhelmed by the euphoria of that victory.

While she accepts the adultaion and adoration, she admits her life has changed slightly since.

"I have way more followers on Instagram now," she told The New Paper, beaming after a training session at the Bishan Stadium yesterday.

"People also recognise me more as well. Some of them stop to tell me how proud they are of me - and these are strangers. It's a very nice feeling."

That aside, her routine hasn't really changed.

"That's still the same - school, training, school, training," said the sprinter, who turns 19 next month and trains six times a week.

The running does not stop. The expectations have grown. And the time to beat just keeps getting harder and harder.

On Wednesday, Shanti will have to raise her game once again, this time on the world stage.

She is the only Singaporean who will compete in Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium at the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships.

Singapore Athletics chief, Tang Weng Fei, has already cautioned against having high expectations of the teenager, who will make her debut at the world event.

Tang stressed her focus should not be on setting a new national best, but rather to soak in the experience of competing alongside the world's top athletes.

Shanti plans to heed that advice.

"Going there will be mostly for the experience. Performance-wise, I hope to make the semi-finals at least, but I never think about the timing," she said.

"Whenever you think of a time, you tend not to achieve it. It's just like when I raced the 200m at the SEA Games.

"I had high hopes for a medal, but I tried my best not to think about it. That approach helped. It cleared my mind." Since June, Shanti's timings have been on par with what she had been doing at the SEA Games.

"I run in 100m intervals and my time is 11.8 or 11.9. My coach (Margaret Oh) is happy with it," she added.

"But I don't know if I can better my personal best in Beijing. The adrenalin flow just feels a bit different now."

She's certain, however, to soak up the atmosphere there, as well as share a few words with her idol, American sprinter Allyson Felix. Said Shanti: "I can't wait to meet her. I'm not sure if I have the guts to even approach her though.

"I also want to meet (British sprinter) Adam Gemili. I saw him at the Commonwealth Games last year, when he was second in the men's 100m."

Turning her mind back to the track, Shanti said she's already thinking of repeating her feat at the next SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

The running does not stop for Shanti. Neither do the targets.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 22, 2015.
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