May 9, 2023
PHNOM PENH – There were no tears this time, only a hug with teammate Elizabeth-Ann Tan before Shanti Pereira strolled coolly to the media mixed zone at the Morodok Techo National Stadium, just minutes after winning her third SEA Games gold.
And what a difference it was from just a year ago, when the sprinter burst into tears after winning the 200m at the Hanoi Games. The video of her in disbelief, saying “Real, right? This is real? Oh my god”, went viral.
If Hanoi was a shock, the victory in Phnom Penh was a mere formality.
The 26-year-old blazed lane six in 22.69 seconds in the women’s 200m final to capture her third SEA Games title. In doing so, she also obliterated Kristina Knott’s Games record of 23.01 and bettered her previous national mark of 22.89.
Vietnam’s Tran Thi Nhi Yen won the silver in 23.54 and Malaysia’s Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli (23.60) took the bronze. Knott, the 2019 champion, was fourth in 23.79. Tan finished fifth out of seven in 24.03 – a personal best.
Pereira said: “This feels so different (compared to Hanoi). I went into the Games really pumped off the season I’ve had. I was excited to compete at the SEA Games again. I knew I had fierce competitors, so I really had to get my game on. I’m just really happy.”
She added: “No tears this time but maybe later, I don’t know.”
With no results displayed on the jumbotron at the National Stadium, no one there was aware of the timings until much later. There was no doubt though, that Pereira was a class above the rest – her time was just 0.12sec off the 2024 Olympics qualifying mark.
This is her first successful defence of her Games title, adding to the 200m golds she won on home soil in 2015 and seven years later in Hanoi. This is also the third time that she has bettered her own 200m national mark in 2023, while she has also rewritten her 100m national record thrice in that time.
The Philippines’ Kayla Richardson, who was expected to be Pereira’s closest challenger after a 200m bronze and 100m gold in 2022, pulled up halfway through Heat 1 earlier on Monday and did not finish the race.
It remains to be seen if the Filipina will contest the 100m.
Up next for Pereira will be the 4x100m relay before a bigger test awaits on Friday, when she will be gunning for an unprecedented sprint double.
She also has five bronzes and one silver, but has yet to claim the 100m gold at the biennial meet.
The women’s sprint double has been achieved only once by Singapore – 50 years ago, when Glory Barnabas won the 200m and Eng Chiew Guay the 100m at the old National Stadium in Kallang.
For now, the focus is on recovery.
Pereira said: “Now I need to recover completely because it’s so hot. I need to get ice all over my body for the next few days. I have the relay on Wednesday, so it’s full-round recovery till Friday.”
In the men’s 200m, Thailand’s teen sensation Puripol Boonson’s title defence ended in heartbreak after he pulled up injured midway through the final.
His compatriot Soraoat Dapbang won in 20.62, ahead of Vietnam’s Ngan Ngoc Nghia (20.84) and Indonesia’s Lalu Muhammad Zohri (21.02). Singapore’s Mark Lee was fifth in 21.48.