Singapore sprint queen to take things slow

Sprinter Shanti Pereira, clocked 12.16 seconds in the 200m race held at the SAA (Singapore Athletics Association)

SINGAPORE - She already has the women's 100-metre national record in the bag.

And it's only a matter of time before teenage sprint sensation Shanti Pereira smashes the 200m record, according to Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief Tang Weng Fei.

In fact, the 16-year-old could do it as soon as Friday night, when she runs in her 200m heat at the IAAF World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.

"The way she's running now, she'll probably smash the 24-second mark in the heats," said Tang.

"Plus, I think she's stronger in the 200m event than she is in the 100m."

Shanti's coach, Margaret Oh, also backs her young star to break Prema Govindan's 29-year-old 200m record of 24.54s tonight.

But Oh, a former runner, was unsure if Shanti can go under 24 seconds as predicted by Tang.

"A sub-24? I'm not aiming that high for her yet," said the 52-year-old, who has worked with the Republic Polytechnic student for three years.

"But I think she can definitely clock a timing in the region of a low 24s."

The expectation swirling around Shanti is remarkable, considering she turns only 17 in September.


Perhaps she is a victim of her own success, after she broke Amanda Choo's 100m record (12.01s) with a time of 11.89s in her heat in Donetsk on Wednesday.

She was unable to build on that timing in the semi-final last night, though, as she clocked 11.96s to finish fourth in her heat.

But, according to Oh, there is no worry of the pressure getting to the former CHIJ Katong Convent and Singapore Sports School (SSP) student.

"Her game temperament is her best quality," said the coach.

"She just doesn't let things bother her much.

"It's good for her - she's not frightened of anything when it's time to compete."

The SAA is hoping Shanti will be part of the Singapore contingent heading to December's SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

Her 100m record does not meet the qualification mark of 11.73s, which was the bronze-medal timing at the last SEA Games in Jakarta two years ago.

But she could still be on the plane to Myanmar if the women's 4 x 400m team qualify.

The relay quartet is only about three seconds off the qualification mark of 3:45.03.

Tang, however, cautioned against expecting too much from Shanti too soon, saying that the SAA will take a "patient" approach to her development.

SSP track and field head coach Ralf Iwan is an advocate of this approach.

"You shouldn't change (her training schedule) too much," said the German, who has more than 17 years of coaching experience.

"Obviously, her coach is also learning, because she (Oh) has never had an athlete under her running 11.89s.

"But I think, so far, Margaret and Shanti are a good team.

"So for me, it's difficult to say, 'Ah, Shanti's running very fast, let's take her and put her with another coach'.

"I would advise us to invest in the coach."

Oh said she would gradually increase the intensity of Shanti's training.

"Her training so far, is not too tough yet," said Oh, with a chuckle.

"But it shouldn't be a problem.

"Sometimes she gives you that black face when you tell her to do something she doesn't like in training, but she'll still finish it.

"Her training attitude is very good."