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Shanti shines

August 17, 2011 - 9:41pm


 TNP PHOTO: Sarah Chow

WHILE most runners crave for the finish line, Shanti Pereira is drawn to the piercing bang of the starter's pistol.

Said the 14-year-old sprint prodigy: "I really like the sound of the starter's pistol. I think it's my favourite part of running.

"And I like it to be loud. I don't like it when it's soft, it doesn't have the same effect when it's soft.

"I like adrenalin rush I get when I hear the gun, it helps me push off the blocks."

Ironically though, the Singapore Sports School student doesn't react rapidly to her favourite sound and is considered a relatively slow starter.

Not that's hindered her in her running career so far.

She won four golds the National Schools track and field championships – in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m – for the second year running this year.

At the regional level, she won a bronze in the 100m at the Asean School Games in Singapore in July, clocking a personal best of 12.39 seconds.

She also grabbed another bronze in the 4x400m and a silver in the 4x100m.

This month she shone on the international stage winning golds in the 100m and 4x100m at the 45th International Children's Games in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

She lists this feat her finest sporting achievement so far and it gives credence to her coach Margaret Oh's assertion that her biggest strength is her race temperament.

Explained the former national sprinter: "She always seems to perform in competitions. It's very rare to find an athlete with her level of game temperament.

"She's always very cool and doesn't show any fear at events, even when she's up against older, more seasoned runners."

But there's one person she is reluctant to run against, for now at least, her sister and national sprinter Valerie Pereira, 21.

When asked about the prospect of running against her sister, Shanti shifted uneasily, paused, before finally uttering: "It would be cool to run with her in the relays.

"I don't mind running against her, but if I can, I'd rather not."

Explained Oh: "I think Shanti might be afraid that she might beat her sister and it might upset her. They are very close.

"So far they haven't run together yet. I told her that sooner or later you will have to meet on the track and if you don't beat her maybe some one else will, so it might as well be you."

When Shanti was probed on this, she admitted that she was uncomfortable about the prospect of breasting the tape ahead of her sporting inspiration.

She said: "If she beats me, I would be fine, but I think if I beat her, I might feel bad about it.

"But I'm sure somewhere down the line I will be OK with running against her."

National marks

She might not have run against her 21-year-old sister, but Shanti has already rewritten one of Valerie's national marks.

At the age of just 12, she broke the national Under-15 200m mark set by Valerie of 26.05secs by just 0.02 of a second.

In fact, the deposed record-holder was in the stands of Choa Chu Kang Stadium that day.

Said Bridget Jeet Pereira, mother of the two sprinters and a former runner herself: "It was a very special day for the family.

"Valerie was there cheering and screaming for her sister and when she broke her record, she was telling everyone around her, 'that's my sister'.

"I was a runner myself and I was very keen on representing Singapore but it never happened.
"But now I am seeing my dream happen through my daughters."

It was a dream which almost didn't happen for Shanti too, as she had thoughts of quitting the track after a poor showing at nationals when she was in primary four.

After winning a gold and silver the year before, she was expected to better that haul, but ended the meet without a trip to the podium and no medals around her neck.

According to Bridget Jeet, it was a big blow to her youngest daughter and caused her to contemplate packing her running shoes away for good.

But the support of her family kept her going.

So how far can Shanti go in the athletics arena?

Said Pedro Acuna, her former coach at Singapore Sports School, a year ago: "(She has) the potential to make the top 20 in the world junior rankings in five years."

Who knows, maybe in time to come, Shanti could be hearing her favourite starter's pistol ring out at an Olympic Games arena.

Name: Veronica Shanti Pereira
Age: 14
Height: 1.63m
Weight: 53kg
School: Singapore Sports School
Sport: Track and Field
Family: Clarence (Father), Bridget Jeet (Mother), Valerie (Sister), Shobi (Sister)
Sporting achievements:
2009: C Division - 200m and 4x400m winners
2010: C Division – 100m, 200m, 4x400m, 4x100m golds.
2011: B Division – 100m, 200m, 4x400m, 4x100m golds;
Asean School Games – 4x100m silver, 4x400m and 100m bronze;
International Children's Games – First in 100m and 4x100m
* Holder of the National Under-15 200m record of 12.39 seconds

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