Singapore's fastest woman Shanti Pereira has got the blessing of the Commonwealth Games' new sprint queen. After blitzing the field in the women's 200m semi-finals on Thursday evening, Blessing Okagbare was impressed by the teenager running in the lane next to her.
When The Straits Times informed the Nigerian that Shanti was just 17, the youngest of the 24 semi-finalists, Okagbare said: "Seventeen, you say? Well, the girl has got the legs to go far."
That's not a bad endorsement, coming from the first woman to complete the sprint double at the Games since the Bahamas' Debbie Ferguson in 2002.
The dyed blonde dynamo sports a disarming smile, but ran with real determination to win the final later on Thursday night in 22.25sec. On Monday, she captured the 100m crown in a Games record time of 10.85.
Young Shanti later said she was "too scared" to strike up a conversation with the biggest adversary she has faced in her fledgling career.
The Republic Polytechnic student witnessed up close the breathtaking pace of the African, particularly at the turn of Hampden Stadium's makeshift track.
"My goodness, when she blew past me, it was quite frightening," said Shanti, who clocked a season-best 24.29, just off her national record of 23.99 set last December.
"She's built like a tank - I really need to work out more."
Shanti, who also holds the national 100m record (11.89), was eliminated after placing seventh out of eight in her semi-final. She had timed 24.31 to qualify from the heats a day earlier.
She said: "I really didn't expect to reach the semis so it was a great experience, something to learn from, ahead of the Singapore Open and the Asian Games."
Later, under floodlights and light showers, Shanti and 50,000 others were enthralled by Okagbare at full tilt to claim her second gold medal.
The speedster finished a full step ahead of England's Jodie Williams, 20, and Bianca Williams, 21, in second and third places respectively.
Even as Okagbare ran around the track to celebrate, she voiced some frustration at not being able to register the kind of speed to join the likes of American Olympic champion Allyson Felix in the sub-22 club.
The former youth footballer said she was not pleased at having to run twice within a matter of hours, which proved difficult even for someone blessed with loping strides.
"I wanted to run faster, honestly - I saw the time and was a little disappointed," said the Olympic long jump bronze medallist, who finished last in the 100m final at the 2012 London Games.
"If we had another extra day of rest and came back then I would have been able to run faster, because I think I'm actually ready to do under 22 seconds."
Okagbare can cap off an already memorable Commonwealth Games debut with a third gold when Nigeria compete in the 4x100m relay tonight.
She said: "I am looking forward to it as long as we get to the final after the first run. "I will come in for the final and if we get there then I will give my best for the nation."
This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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