Sizzling Shanti

SINGAPORE - Prema Govindan's 200m national record of 24.54 seconds will stand, for now.

Friday afternoon, Singapore's latest sprint sensation Shanti Pereira equalled Govindan's 29-year-old mark after finishing third in her heats at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Trinidad and Tobago's Kayelle Clarke won that heat in 24.42 and Shanti, 16, finished 19th overall with her timing.

Based on the heats timings, the Republic Polytechnic student is the fastest South-east Asian in the event in Donetsk, and Asia's second fastest.

Japan's Seika Aoyama is ranked sixth overall with 23.78, while Indonesia's Ulfa Silpiana is the next fastest sprinter from South-east Asia with 25.09.

Shanti will race in today's semi-finals as the top-three finishers from each heat will automatically qualify, along with the next three fastest sprinters across all heats.

The former CHIJ Katong Convent and Singapore Sports School (SSP) student said: "I was aiming to break both the 100m and 200m records here (in Donetsk), and I am very happy to equal the 200m record.

"The conditions were quite good - the temperature was just nice and the headwind (-0.1m/s) was minimal.

"Breaking the 100m record a few days ago also gave me a big confidence boost."

Shanti had come close to setting new national records earlier this year - she was 0.04 from Choo's 100m mark in March, and clocked 24.60 in the 200m at the South-east Asia (SEA) Youth Championships in Vietnam last month to set a then-new national youth record.

The breakthrough finally came on Wednesday, when the teenager became the first Singaporean woman to clock a sub-12sec timing in the century sprint when she finished second in her 100m heat with 11.89.

With that timing, she broke Amanda Choo's national mark of 12.01, set in October 2010 at the Thailand Open in Bangkok.

Intensive training

Shanti, who trains under former runner Margaret Oh, said that her sizzling performances in Donetsk is the result of weeks of intensive training.

"Training has pretty much been the same since last year," she said.

"I guess the main difference has been that it had been more intense recently."

She will have another shot at breaking Govindan's mark, as well as meet the SEA Games qualifying mark of 24.06, in the semi-finals today, where she will be up against faster runners.

Shanti said: "My heat wasn't that fast, the other heats were all won by sprinters with sub-23 second timings.

"Maybe I will do better when I am up against them - they may give me a greater push to run faster."