HANGZHOU, CHINA — Singapore’s sprint sensation, Shanti Pereira, clinched a triumphant victory in the women’s 200m final at the Asian Games on Monday, October 2nd.
Clocking an impressive 23.03s at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, she ended Singapore’s nearly half-century wait for an athletics gold at the Asian Games.
This momentous win marked Singapore’s first gold in the sport since 1974 when Chee Swee Lee stood atop the podium for the women’s 400m.
Just days prior, Pereira had already ended Singapore’s Asiad track and field medal drought by securing silver in the women’s 100m.
Pereira, no stranger to defying expectations, had previously topped all three heats for the 200m event with a time of 23.14s.
Remarkably, this was her debut 200m Games final; she had not advanced beyond the semi-finals in the 2018 edition.
Pereira’s gold marked Singapore’s first track and field triumph at the quadrennial Games since Chee Swee Lee clinched the women’s 400m title at the 1974 Teheran Games.
Beyond her achievements at the Asiad, 2023 saw Pereira collecting gold medals in both the 100m and 200m events at the Cambodia SEA Games and the Asian Athletics Championships.
In the World Athletics Championships held in August, she made history by becoming the first Singaporean to advance to the semi-finals, clocking an impressive 22.57sec in the 200m heats, subsequently meeting the qualifying standard for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Pereira’s journey to this pinnacle wasn’t without its challenges. The nation first celebrated her talent at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games where she not only won gold in the 200m but also established a new national record.
Her success then ended a 42-year gold medal drought for Singapore in SEA Games sprints.
However, the weight of expectations and subsequent injuries saw her face skepticism and doubt.
“Slowly, people just kind of lost faith in me… I really did let it get to me,” Pereira had earlier admitted.
These challenges brought about seasons of self-doubt, magnified with each year she didn’t set a new personal best.
The pressure was so overwhelming that at times, she dreaded competing or even training. Yet, she persisted.
Under the expert guidance of coach Luis Cunha and bolstered by her family’s unwavering support, Pereira made a remarkable comeback.
She won gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m at the 2022 SEA Games.
By May, she became the first Singaporean woman to clinch both the 100m and 200m titles at the same SEA Games edition.
Following that, she secured a sprint double at the Asian Athletics Championships in July.
Furthermore, in a testament to her relentless spirit, Pereira made history again in August by becoming the first Singaporean to reach the World Championships semi-finals in the 200m. She also secured her spot for the 200m event at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
With her eyes set on medals for both the 100m and 200m, Pereira’s journey at this year’s Asian Games was not just a pursuit of victory but a testament to her unwavering resilience and spirit.
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