SEA Games: Shanti's 100m bronze raises emotions among fans at National Stadium

Veronica Shanti Pereira made a number of people cry at the National Stadium yesterday.

Her coach Margaret Oh and former national 4x100 metres sprinter Andrew Chee, who is now residing in Sydney, were among those who could not contain their emotions.

But the 18-year-old sprinter need not worry, they were all tears of joy.

Shanti became the first Singapore woman to win an individual sprint medal at the SEA Games since Eng Chiew Guay (100m) and Glory Barnabas (200m) triumphed in 1973, when it was known as the South-east Asian Peninsular Games.

She clocked 11.88sec to pick up the bronze medal in the women's 100m.

Filipina-American Kayla Richardson edged out Thailand's Tassaporn Wanakit in a photo-finish to claim gold, after both runners clocked 11.76sec.

Bursting out of the blocks with a uncharacteristically good start, Shanti was neck and neck with Richardson and Tassaporn at the 50m mark.

Although she could not keep pace until the end, Shanti held off Malaysia's Zaidatul Husniah Zulkiffli, the fastest qualifier.

"My coach told me before the race that all I needed was a good start, and (a medal) was mine," said Shanti.

Still catching her breath at the finish line and digesting the magnitude of her achievement, the Republic Polytechnic leisure management student was given a surprise when President Tony Tan Keng Yam congratulated her.

"He congratulated me and said he was very excited for me... I just told him I didn't know my time," a laughing Shanti told The New Paper.

The teenager, who is the national record-holder in both the 100m (11.80sec) and 200m (23.99sec), came agonisingly close to a medal on her Games debut in Myanmar 18 months ago. She finished fourth in both events.

Even after a few hours, Shanti still could not believe she had ended Singapore's 42-year wait for a women's sprints medal.

"On the way back to the hotel, I held the medal in my hands on the bus and kept looking at it and thinking: 'Wow, I really won a medal.'

"I'm going to dream about it tonight. Maybe after that, it'll sink in."

Her sister Valerie was one of the nearly 8,000 spectators who crammed the grandstand to cheer her on.


The 25-year-old, a former national sprinter herself, said: "I'm very proud, there's no other way to say it. She takes things in her stride and gives her best on the track, so I think there's more to come from her."

Former national athlete Oh, Shanti's coach since she was a Secondary 2 student at the Singapore Sports School, said: "I'm so proud of her... I actually cried.

"It's good that local athletics is showing improvement, and I hope there are many more young talent to come.

"If they have the same mentality as Shanti, they can go far."

In the men's pole vault, Thailand's Porranot Purahong won with a Games record of 5.30m, smashing compatriot Kreeta Sintawacheewa's 5.21m mark set in 2013.

The Philippines' Ernest John Obiena (5.25m) bagged the silver while Malaysia's Iskandar Alwi (5.05m) settled for bronze.

Singapore's Chan Sheng Yao (4.95m) and Sean Lim (4.75m) were fourth and fifth respectively.

There was also a Games record in the men's triple jump, after Malaysia's Hakimi Ismail leapt 16.76m to claim gold. Thailand's Varunyoo Kongnil (16.20m) and Vietnam's Nguyen Van Hung (15.92m) took the other medals.

Singapore's Stefan Tseng (15.52m) and Dylan Wong (13.94m) finished fifth and eighth, respectively.

This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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