Asian Games: Shanti Pereira ends Singapore athletics gold drought


Singapore’s Shanti Pereira celebrates winning the women’s 200m final athletics event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on October 2, 2023. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

When Shanti Pereira sprinted to Singapore’s first athletics Asian Games gold in 49 years no one was prouder than her parents watching from the stands in Hangzhou.

Pereira draped herself in the Singapore flag after her 200m triumph and ran towards mum, dad and boyfriend Tan Zong Yang, a former athlete, in the crowd.

The 27-year-old Pereira quit her job as a copywriter this year to become a full-time athlete, a leap of faith that has clearly paid off.

“So proud, so proud to see that. I just got emotional,” dad Clarence said after her gold, according to Channel News Asia.

“What we hoped for her to do, she did. I’m still in a daze.”

It was Singapore’s first athletics gold since the Tehran Asiad in 1974, when Chee Swee Lee won the women’s 400m, and only the third in history.

Mum Jeet said the tension before Monday night’s race–which Pereira won in 23.03sec, well clear of China’s Li Yuting in second–was unbearable.

“Waiting for the event to take place was really nerve-wracking, prayers were really important,” she said.

Of the recent move to become a professional sprinter, Pereira said: “When I had the chance, I jumped right in.”

The move enabled her to lower her own national record four times in 2023, from 23.46sec to the 22.57sec she ran in August’s World Championships in Budapest.

“I knew I crossed the line first, and I was like ‘Oh my God’,” said Pereira of her Hangzhou heroics.

“What a season. It’s been so crazy, it means a lot to me. I can’t really describe this.”

Pereira was a whisker away from double gold at the Games, pipped by just 0.04sec to 100m gold by China’s Ge Manqi.

Pereira said she never dreamed of two medals.

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“I wanted to do this, I loved to do this, but this exact position, I never thought it was possible,” she said.

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