CLARK, PHILIPPINES — “Whoa, ok, that’s really fast,” thought Shanti Pereira as she glanced at the scoreboard.

The Philippines’ Kristina Marie Knott had just clocked a PB and Games record of 23.07 seconds in the 200 metres. That was just the qualifying round for the final later in the evening. Pereira’s national record is 23.60s.

But if the 24-year-old has learnt anything from her past three Games experiences, it’s to manage expectations, keep calm and enjoy her run.

On Saturday night, Pereira lined up at the New Clark City athletics stadium for the first final of the night. No matter that she had won the title four years ago. No matter that people expected her to be on the podium because of her pedigree.

Pereira stepped on the gas in the final 20m to nudge herself onto the podium. She finished in a season’s best of 23.77s, behind Knott’s rewritten Games record of 23.01s and 2017 champion Le Tu Chinh’s 23.45s.

Veronica Shanti Pereira after the 200m finals yesterday. She finished third, winning the bronze. (Photo: Alvin Ho)

Said Pereira, “After the heats, I mentally prepared myself because (Kristina) did really well. Not that I gave up hopes on getting the gold, but I just managed my expectations and was happy I got bronze after that.”

Her coach, Margaret Oh, held her charge to high expectations. She noted that with better race execution, Pereira was capable of running faster.

“She wasn’t moving as smooth today,” said Oh, who observed at least two moments when her athlete jammed up.

But Oh has reason to expect more of Pereira. From what she has seen in training, Pereira’s block starts and speed has improved through the years. It’s just a matter of race execution, but the SMU accountancy student has been unable to practice race pace as much due to academic commitments.

“It’s a problem for her to execute it better because she doesn’t have enough training for race pace,” said Oh, who highlighted that Pereira needs more international exposure since no one in Singapore can push her limits. “Maybe I’ll tell her to focus more on the 100m already. Not much of the execution that you need, just run.”

While naysayers may wag tongues about Pereira’s seeming regression – 4th in 2013, 1st in 2015, 3rd in 2017, and now 3rd again in the 200m – Oh is confident that a national record is on the table for Sunday’s century sprint.

If Pereira gets a good start down, that is.

Pereira ran 11.77s in the 100m heats and advanced to the final at 5:40pm. She will face Le Tu Chinh (11.61s) and Kristina Marie Knott (11.45s) once again.