Class of 2015 break oldest national track and field record

An exhausted Shanti Pereira (lying on the track), Dipna Lim-Prasad and Goh Chui Ling (right) at the 28th SEA Games, Athletics Women's 4x400m at National Stadium on 11 June 2015. The team came in forth but broke the Singapore National record of 3min 40.58sec

They both ended their respective races in last place.

But the difference in the reaction of the Singapore men's and women's 4x400m relay quartets after their respective SEA Games finals yesterday was stark.

The men, who finished fifth in 3min 17.44sec - almost 11 seconds behind winners Thailand, who clocked 3:06.81 - slinked away through the spectator stands at the National Stadium, telling their team manager they did not wish to face the waiting press.

The women, meanwhile, let out shrieks of joy after finding out their 3:40.58 had shattered the national record of 3:43.85 set at the Asian Games on Sept 11, 1974 in Teheran, Iran.

The new national best was not good enough for a medal - Vietnam won the race in a new Games record of 3:31.46, ahead of Thailand (3:36.82) and Malaysia (3:39.10) - but the quartet of Dipna Lim-Prasad, Goh Chui Ling, T Piriyah and newly minted 200m champion Veronica Shanti Pereira didn't care.


Lim-Prasad, who won the 400m hurdles silver a day earlier, said: "We've been trying to break the record for a long time so, at the end, when my husband (former national sprinter Poh) Seng Song shouted from the stands that we broke it, we started screaming... it was quite an emotional moment."

The leggy 24-year-old later told TNP she felt even prouder setting the milestone with the relay team than she did winning her silver.

As the second runner in the race after taking the baton from 23-year-old Piriyah, she cut down the gap to Malaysia to about 10 metres.

Goh, 22, then trimmed it further to set the stage for final runner Shanti to try and salvage a medal.

With around 200m to go, the 18-year-old looked like she could overtake Malaysia's Shereen Vallabouy, only to lose steam in the final stretch.

At the finish line, the four were told they had special guests awaiting them - the 1974 team of Glory Barnabas, Chee Swee Lee, Lee Tai Jong and Maimoon Azlan.

The track stars from yesteryear congratulated their successors, and posed for photos.

Said Asian Games gold medallist Lee: "I couldn't make it down to watch Shanti win the 200m yesterday, but I made sure I found time to see the relay girls today.

"I'm so happy for them. When I saw the Vietnam team cross the line at 3:31.46, I knew our girls would finish with a time that would break the national record."

Added Barnabas: "It's great. Like what I said when Shanti won the 200m gold a day earlier, I'm happy to see progress in our track and field."

Lim-Prasad beamed when asked about the exchange.

"We met some of them previously, but to meet (the whole team) right after getting this time was really momentous for us," she said.

Goh paid tribute to the crowd, estimated to be more than 6,000.

"They were very encouraging," she said.

"When we first stepped onto the track, we heard the roars and screams, and we were... reminded to run for the crowd, and the national record came as a really big bonus for us."

There was less adulation reserved for the men's team, though.

Curiously, they raced without their two top runners Zubin Percy Muncherji and Ng Chin Hui, who will take their place the individual 400m heats today.

It was not an approach shared by the women, who fielded Piriyah and Goh despite the pair having the same individual race today.

When national sprints coach Luis Cunha was quizzed, he mysteriously said it was not the right time to explain.

"The time was expected for the names that ran," the Portuguese would only say.

This article was first published on June 12, 2015.
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