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Shanti Pereira

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Shanti Pereira to train in US and compete in Europe ahead of Paris Olympics

Asian Games women’s 200m sprint champion Shanti Pereira taking questions from residents at Tampines West Community Club on Jan 27, 2024. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE – Having filled her trophy cabinet with multiple shiny medals in 2023, Singapore sprint queen Shanti Pereira will be heading to Florida, United States, hoping that a two-month training camp in the Sunshine State will propel her into another glittering season.

She had started preparations for the new season last November, just a month after her historic 200m title at the Asian Games had capped a spectacular 2023, which included five top-level gold medals and Olympic qualification.

The 27-year-old will leave for Florida next week. In April, she will head to Europe for competitions, just as she did in 2023, when she raced in Germany, Switzerland and France.

The 80,000-capacity Stade de France, which will host the Paris Olympics’ athletics events from Aug 1-11, will be her final destination for 2024.

Pereira told The Sunday Times: “I have had a good break and now it is all about Paris, because it’s the only major competition for me this year. I decided on the US because it is a great environment to train in weather wise and the facilities there are great as well. I am excited for it.”

She was speaking on the sidelines of a meet-and-greet session on Jan 27 at the Tampines West Community Club, where residents got to meet the Singaporean trail-blazer.

Beyond racing against some of Europe’s best, the competitions will also give her an opportunity to secure a 100m spot at the Paris Games by racking up world ranking points. At the world championships in Budapest last August, she had met the Olympic qualifying mark in the 200m after clocking a national-record 22.57sec in the semi-finals.

Individual athletes have two routes to earn a ticket to Paris till the qualification window closes on June 30. Half of the quota spots will be allocated based on timing, while the other half will be based on world rankings.

Over the course of 2023, Pereira competed in 47 individual races, rewrote the national 100m mark six times and the 200m record four times as she emerged as a national hero.

Her goal for this season is to further eclipse her national records. She had set the 100m mark of 11.20sec en route to winning the gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in July, just weeks before lowering the 200m timing.

Shaving off any fraction of a second could help in her Olympic target, which is to better her performance in Hungary, where she finished 17th out of 45 overall in the 200m.

She said: “The place I am at, (getting quicker timings) boils down to the smallest details. So we’re just really working on getting faster. I’m just excited to continue this progress. I have been working on improving my arms swing and my hip motions.”

Asian Games women’s 200m sprint champion Shanti Pereira (centre right) taking photos with residents at Tampines West Community Club on Jan 27, 2024. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The meet-and-greet session, which was organised by Tampines West Community Sports Network, saw Pereira share her experiences candidly with the 100 participants, with some posing questions on the challenges she faced and how she overcame them.

She then flashed her widest smile as she signed autographs and posed for photographs with every attendee, young or old.

One of them was property agent Hairul Sahril, who brought along his daughter Hannah Sofea, 11.

Hannah Sofea (centre), a Haig Girls’ School pupil who trains in gymnastics, interacting with Shanti Pereira at Tampines West Community Club on Jan 27, 2024. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hairul said: “I asked Shanti about how she has maintained her motivation through the years because my daughter is also a student-athlete pursuing gymnastics. Shanti is a motivation to all the younger ones who want to do sports and represent the country.”

Hannah, who could not stop smiling after getting a picture taken with Pereira, said: “It is not every day that you get to meet a national sports hero. I read about how Shanti had a knee injury but still pushed through and I am motivated to always do my best and overcome any issues I have in training.”

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