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SEA Games 2023: One week’s rest after double, then it’s off to European meets for Shanti Pereira

Singapore's sprint queen Shanti Pereira posing for a wefie with fans after arriving at Changi Airport on May 13. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE – As a sprinter, Shanti Pereira is only too used to life in the fast lane.

Fresh from sealing a historic 100m and 200m double at the Cambodia SEA Games, the sprint queen will be flying off next week to compete in Germany and Switzerland, after a week’s break in Singapore.

There will be no big celebrations here. She just wants to spend a relaxing time with her family and boyfriend, having already been away in Australia and New Zealand for training and competition earlier this year in preparing for the Games.

“It’s been a crazy few days,” the 26-year-old said after arriving at Changi Airport along with the rest of the Singapore track and field contingent on Saturday.

“It’s not the end of my season yet, there are a lot more things I’m going to be doing for the rest of the year.”

In Phnom Penh, Pereira became the first Singaporean woman to win both the 100m and 200m at the same edition of the biennial meet.

After claiming her third 200m title on Monday, she stormed to her first 100m crown on Friday to bring her total tally of Games golds to four. In Cambodia, Singapore’s track and field team won 10 medals – three golds, two silvers and five bronzes.

Pereira’s phone has been continuously buzzing with congratulatory messages and as family and friends welcomed the athletics contingent home at the airport, she also fielded several wefie requests from fans.

She said: “It’s always nice to have people recognise me for all the hard work that I’ve done and if I’ve inspired them in some kind of way, that’s really nice too.”

One of the fans, Chen Jin Sser, was at the airport to see Pereira, runner Soh Rui Yong and hurdler Ang Chen Xiang after being inspired by their commitment to their sport.

The 20-year-old Chinese, who is doing an exchange programme at the Singapore Management University, left the airport with autographs and wefies with the athletes.

He said: “They’ve improved a lot over the last few years and their stories also left a huge impression on me to improve myself and my studies.”

Pereira’s older sisters Shobi and Valerie were also at the airport. They did not make the trip to Cambodia but followed every race from Singapore, which Shobi said is always an emotional affair.

The 37-year-old also noted how it was special to go through the highs and lows of Pereira’s running journey with her.

The sprinter had previously spoken about the challenges she has had to endure since winning her first Games gold medal on home soil – in the 200m in 2015 – as she battled injuries and self-doubt.

Shobi said: “In every career, there’s always ups and downs and of course, we’re there through all of it. And to see her really push herself and have such a great attitude and to keep her passion for something that is not so easy to so, that’s truly amazing to see.”

It will be a busy season for Pereira, who has set her sights on the July 12-16 Asian Athletics Championships in Thailand and the Hangzhou Asian Games from Sept 23 to Oct 8.

Once Olympic qualification begins in July, Pereira, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics on a universality place, will also be trying to meet the qualifying mark or through world rankings.

The 200m qualifying time is 22.57 seconds, just 0.12sec off her latest national mark of 22.69 clocked on Monday.

Her scintillating form has also sparked talk of continental success – the gold medal-winning time by Bahrain’s Edidiong Odiong at the 2018 Asian Games was 22.96sec – but Pereira remained coy about her targets for the quadrennial meet.

She said: “It’s still considered pretty early and a lot of the athletes haven’t competed yet, but seeing my progress since Australia till now, leading up to the Asian Games, a medal is definitely something we can work towards.”