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Reporting from Tokyo
TOKYO — She had only 20-odd seconds to debut on the Olympic stage, and Veronica Shanti Pereira made them count as she clocked a season-best 23.96 seconds in the women's 200m heats at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Monday (2 August).
However, the timing was not enough to advance the 24-year-old into the semi-finals, as she was place sixth in her heats. The Bahamas' Anthonique Strachan (22.76sec), Portugal's Lorene Dorcas Bazolo (23.21sec) and Italy's Dalia Kaddari (23.26sec) qualified from the heat.
"Considering that I haven't had a proper, competitive race since 2019, I'm satisfied that I ran below 24 seconds," Pereira told Yahoo News Singapore at the media mixed zone.
"Although I had only 20-over seconds to race, my preparations actually began hours before. I was actually really nervous in the beginning of the day, because I knew I was up against many of the top runners.
"Gradually I calmed myself down, and told myself to embrace the experience."
First female sprinter to represent Singapore since 1956
With Monday's run, Pereira became the first female sprinter to represent Singapore at the Olympic Games in 65 years, after Mary Klass (100m and 200m) and Janet Jesudason (100m) in Melbourne in 1956.
She was one of the final Team Singapore athletes to receive a spot at the Tokyo Olympics, after World Athletics approved her universality place early last month.
She holds the national records for the women's 100m and 200m, and memorably set the 200m national record of 23.60sec while winning gold at the 2015 SEA Games, the first time in 42 years that Singapore had won a sprint gold at the biennial event.
With major events such as the SEA Games and the Asian Games coming up next year, Pereira hopes that she could use her debut Olympic experience to achieve good results at those events.
"I'm just happy that I could get a race this year. It's pretty crazy that an Olympic race is my first race of the year," she said.
"I get to experience the atmosphere at the stadium, so hopefully it's a good way to start preparing for the big events next year."
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