Singapore Athletics president wants new sprint champ to train abroad

Singapore Athletics president wants new sprint champ to train abroad

Joseph Schooling has done it, and has become a pretty fast swimmer.

Now, Singapore's fastest woman Veronica Shanti Pereira could also follow suit and further her studies overseas, and train alongside some of the most promising young athletes in the world under the guiding hand of a top-notch coach.

Shanti (left) stirred the nation last week when she won Singapore's first sprint gold medal at the SEA Games for 42 years, storming to the women's 200m title in a new national record time of 23.60sec.

The 18-year-old, who is the 100m national record-holder (11.80), also won bronze in the event.

When asked if Singapore Athletics (SA) had plans for her to go overseas to study and train, track and field chief Tang Weng Fei said: "Yes. She has to go up. We spoke to her very briefly but it looks like her parents and Shanti herself want to study in Singapore (for now). There's not much else I can comment at this moment."

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Shanti said she was open to the idea.

"Yeah definitely. Going overseas to study is good because it gives me experience. I've spoken to my parents and some teachers who agree," she said.

"But my parents and I haven't really had a discussion, yet.

"I'm still exploring my options... There's no rush and no preferred options as yet."

The former Singapore Sports School student is completing a leisure management diploma at Republic Polytechnic and will graduate in early 2017.

Whatever the outcome, Tang said "the bottom line" was that Shanti has to set her sights higher.

"She can't just run around at SEA Games level any more," said the oil trader.

That is why SA will nominate her as a wildcard for the World Championships in Beijing from Aug 22 to 30 as they look to blood her at more top-level meets to gain experience. And Shanti is relishing the opportunity.

"I'm going to meet all the legends, Allyson Felix, Usain Bolt... Everyone," she said.

"And even though I'll be running with people who have way better timings than me, it's a perfect platform for me to do an even faster time."

In the past, national track athletes like former sprinter Prema Govindan (United States) and discus thrower James Wong (United States) have pursued studies abroad in a bid to hone their craft.

Prema, who held the 100m national record for 19 years and the 200m mark for 29 years, went to the University of Nebraska in 1987 and returned to Singapore six-and-a-half years later after completing her Masters.

Wong, a 10-time SEA Games gold medal winner who still holds the Games and national discus records, spent four years from 1993 studying at a Community College and then a university in the US.


He then spent another four years training as a full-time athlete in Germany and returned to Singapore in 1999.

Swim sensation Schooling, one of Shanti's contemporaries, went to Bolles School in Florida and then to the University of Texas earlier this year.

He trains under Eddie Reese, a three-time head coach of the United States Olympic men's swimming team.

His results are testimony to what talented athletes can achieve competing and training in a world-class environment.

Prema said Shanti could reap similar benefits.

"What she will get is people who run her times and faster, so they can push her," said the 49-year-old, who is now a deputy director at the Health Promotion Board.

"I clocked my best times (in the US), running alongside highly-competitive individuals.

"Also, she will be able to manage her studies and sport in a holistic way, and alongside other student-athletes who are in the same boat."

This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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