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Athletics: Shanti Pereira considers move to Florida in bid to qualify for Olympics

Her ambitions lie in East Asia, in the form of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. To get there, Singapore sprinter Shanti Pereira may have to look west, to the IMG Academy in the United States.

The 21-year-old is seriously considering relocating to Florida, where the academy is based, after the Asian Games in Palembang next August to train full time for at least a year to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

The opportunity arose when her coach Margaret Oh approached Loren Seagrave, director of the academy's track and field programme, when the Singapore Sports School brought him in to give coaching workshops in August this year.

"If it happens it will be a big change for me, I am both nervous and excited at this prospect," the first-year accountancy undergraduate at Singapore Management University told The Straits Times (ST) on Monday.

She added that the training environment at the academy, as well as her training partners, will be conducive for her growth as she looks to qualify in 2019 for the Olympics.

Located in Bradenton, Florida, the multi-sport IMG Academy offers programmes for sports such as tennis, baseball, basketball and track and field. Athletes can choose to study, train and live on campus, or just to train with the academy's coaches.


If it happens it will be a big change for me, I am both nervous and excited at this prospect.

'' SHANTI PEREIRA, on the notion of training full-time for at least a year at the IMG Academy in the United States.

Oh said: "Here, I am trying to push her by getting her to train with the men, but this may not be that effective because she may not push herself if she knows she is not on the same level.

"At the academy, most likely she won't be training with the Americans, but there are many international athletes training there and Seagrave said she would train with female athletes around her level, and that will push her."

Athletes from nearly two dozen countries trained or attended camps at the academy in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics last year, including the Netherlands, whose athlete Dafne Schippers won the silver in the women's 200m event.

Singaporean golfer Wong Qi Wen studied and trained at the academy for four years and graduated in 2014. Vietnam's Le Tu Chinh, who won the women's 100m and 200m titles at August's SEA Games as Shanti took bronze in both events, left for the academy in September and will train in Florida till 2020.

The training and boarding option will cost around US$50,000 (S$67,600), with the Sports Excellence scholar hoping that the Singapore Sports Institute or Singapore Athletics can cover the cost.

While the International Association of Athletics Federations has not released the qualifying standards for the 2020 Olympics, Oh reckons that a "low 23-second" timing in the 200m would be sufficient. The qualifying time for the same event for the Rio Games was 23.20sec.

Pereira's personal best, also the national record, stands at 23.60sec.

Both Pereira and Oh were embroiled in a spat with Singapore Athletics technical director Volker Herrmann over training and competition matters in the lead-up to the SEA Games. Pereira tearfully acknowledged after clocking 23.68sec at the 200m final in Kuala Lumpur that those issues had affected her performance.

In her first media interview since the Games, she told ST that the dark period is behind her, and she is confident of reaching the Asian Games qualifying time of 23.65sec in the first quarter next year.

"It definitely was a hard time for me right after the Games. It took me a while to be motivated to come back to train properly," said the Singapore Sports School alumnus, who took a two-week break after the Games.

"I definitely learned something (from the issues): being an athlete is not just about the running or the sport itself, but also about relationships with people, like the association and the coach.

"I've learned how to manage (these relationships) and how to handle (difficult) situations this year."