V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
Shanti Pereira has not competed at the international level in the past 20 months. But she is hopeful of bettering her personal best in the women's 200m at the Tokyo Olympics, which starts today.
"Hopefully, I will get a little bit better with my timing in Tokyo," Singapore's fastest woman told tabla!. "My preparation has been good and I'll try to do my best."
The 24-year-old holds the national records in the women's 100m (11.58 seconds) and 200m (23.60sec). She will be competing in only the 200m in Tokyo.
Shanti, who won a historic gold in the 200m at the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, is at the Tokyo Games on a universality place, previously known as a wild card. It is issued by World Athletics to nations that do not have any male or female athlete that qualifies on merit.
American Gabrielle Thomas timed 21.61sec at Eugene, Oregon, on June 26 - the world's fastest women's 200m run this year.
Others such as Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (21.79sec) and Shericka Jackson (21.82sec) have also been swift over the distance this year.
Jamaica's Elaine Thompson took the title at the 2016 Rio Olympics, clocking 21.78sec.
"I have been to several international events and competed against some top runners," said Shanti. "But the Olympics is a whole different ball game.
"This is something that I have prepared for four years and I'm excited to take part (in my first Olympics). I trained intensely over the past two months and have had enough rest and recovery.
"I clocked 23.72sec in a local meet last year. But since then I have improved quite a bit in terms of timing. So, I should do well in Tokyo."
Portuguese coach Luis Cunha, who has been directing her training since January last year, feels Shanti should "just try to enjoy the moment".
"It's a world-class field," he said. "They are all professionals, while Shanti was working (at her job) until two weeks ago. What she needs is more intense training and good rest and recovery time."
He added that he has made some important changes to her technique but there is still much to do. "There's lots of room to improve," he said. "Covid-19 was a setback because, like most Asians, she could not run in international meets. On the other hand, 200m competitors in Europe and the United States could.
"I believe Shanti will benefit from her Olympics experience and do well next year when the conditions return to normal."