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Singapore's sprint queen Shanti Pereira away from the track: ‘Life can be a bit of a roller coaster ride, I clear my head to calm myself’

This has been a memorable year for Shanti Pereira. The national sprinter’s decision last year to quit her job to focus on running paid off, undoubtedly. It wasn’t just make the year she became a full-time professional athlete – 2023 is also the year she had the most wins and broke the most national records in her 10-year running career.

The 27-year-old clinched five gold medals – two at the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, two at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, and her recent victory at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Fresh out of Hangzhou, she’s taking a month-long break before she gears up for the race of her lifetime – the Paris Olympics in July 2024. 

CNA Women met with Pereira in October and asked her, among many questions: Who is Shanti Pereira outside the race track? How does she engage in self-care? And how, as a medal-winning athlete, does she take it slow? 

DEALING WITH STRESS AND PRESSURE 

“There was a time when I felt uncertain and inadequate,” Pereira said, as she reflected on her “slightly unconventional” education path. 

She spent a few years at Singapore Sports School, then studied for a diploma in sports and leisure management at Republic Polytechnic, and two years ago, got her degree in accountancy from Singapore Management University. 

After graduating in 2021, she struggled to find purpose. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and everything felt like it moved so fast that I just couldn’t keep up,” she said.

Despite winning medals at national competitions, there was self-doubt. “If I wasn’t good enough as a sprinter, and I didn’t know what I’d do outside of running, then who am I?” she said.

With her extremely packed schedule, Pereira understands how crucial time management and self-care are. 

Her Google calendar – the trusty app she relies on to keep her life neat – is filled with training sessions, meetings with her coach, media engagements (such as this day-long photo call for CNA Women), meetings with brands and sponsors, and more. For now, she manages all these commitments herself. 

“Life can be a bit of a roller coaster ride,” she said. “But I’ve learned that it’s okay, it’s part and parcel of being an athlete and it’s more important that I figure out how to handle it, so I clear my head to calm myself.”

Pereira declared how unapologetically “basic” she is about what she enjoys.

Her favourite dates are going to the movies, and she loves spending slow Sundays watching the same episodes from her favourite show, Modern Family. 

“These simple things may be basic, but they are what makes me happy,” she said.

Pereira is also an avid shopper. “I love looking out for new clothes and I love skincare, so I love spending time shopping,” Pereira laughed as she recalled shopping in every city that she’s visited. 

“Whether I travel for a race or leisure, there’s always some random shopping district that I can find in any city I find myself in.” 

It’s why her recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, with boyfriend Tan Zong Yang, who is also an athlete and a lawyer by profession, was so “healing”. 

Mornings are particularly sacred for the sprint queen, where she makes herself a hearty savoury breakfast, gets ready for the day and carves out intentional time with herself. 

“Again, I’m a basic girl. I just love avocado on toast with sriracha and I can’t live without coffee,” she said. “I can barely function without my daily kopi c siew dai.”

The precious downtime she gets in the morning is why she starts her day early, even if no one else in her household is awake. 

“My days can get a little hectic, so I really appreciate my morning time when I can unwind,” she said. “It’s like the calm before the storm.

“Mornings are the important breather I need before I take on anything that happens throughout the rest of the day.”

Journalist: Izza Haziqah; Art director: Jasper Loh; Senior producer: Lindsay Jialin; Photographer: Kelvin Chia; Assistant photographer: Roy Yap; Styling: Sharon Tulasidas; Hair and makeup: Marc Teng using Keune Haircosmetics and MAC Cosmetics, respectively.

CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at] mediacorp.com.sg.

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