Veronica Shanti Pereira secured Singapore's first sprinting gold medal since 1973 when she won the 200 metres at the SEA Games on Wednesday, breaking the national record in the process with a blistering run of 23.60 seconds.
Singapore's Veronica Shanti Pereira celebrates winning gold. Photo credit: SINGSOC
It was the 18-year-old’s first gold medal at the Games and ended a 42-year drought in sprinting for Singapore. Other athletes may have won more gold medals at the 28th SEA Games but few have been more emotional and the crowd at the National Stadium roared in celebration at another landmark moment for the hosts.
“I didn’t know I was going to win. I can’t describe how I feel like now,” an excited Pereira said. “I hoped for a medal….a medal, but a gold?”
Team Singapore have defied even the most optimistic expectations by scooping up a record 60 gold medals already, with six days still to go. Almost a third of those have come at the OCBC Aquatic Centre with Joseph Schooling bagging eight.
Singapore's Joseph Schooling (C), Quah Zheng Wen (L) and Thailand's Jiarapong Sangkhawat celebrate with their medals on the podium with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching. Photo credit: SINGSOC
Like any host-country, Singapore wanted its own bona fide star to leave an indelible mark on the Games and Schooling has delivered that.
On Wednesday, he won two more finals at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. He won the 50 metres butterfly, just missing his own Asian record, then the 200m individual tally, taking his tally for the week to eight golds from eight events. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong personally presented him with one of his gold medals.
He still has one more race to go on Thursday, the medley relay, where another gold medal looks like a formality barring a disqualification or major upset.
Quah Zheng Wen, who has entered a mind-boggling 12 events, picked up another two medals to take his haul to 10, including five golds. His sister Ting Wen won her fourth gold medal in the flying Singaporean 4x100m freestyle relay. Her team mate in the relay Tao Li took her career total to a staggering 28.
With one day of swimming to go, Singapore have won 19 of the 31 gold medals. Vietnam is the next best with nine, thanks almost entirely to Nguyen Thi Anh Vien. The 17-year-old won the 400m freestyle to capture her seventh gold medal.
Away from the pool, the Philippines won five gold medals in boxing, replacing Thailand as the region's top pugilists.
Inspired by eight-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines won medals in each of the 10 divisions they entered, half of them gold.
The standouts were 19-year-old Eumir Felix Marcial, the 2011 world junior champion, who knocked out his hapless Singaporean opponent Jia Wei Tay with a crunching left hook, and Josie Gabuco, the 2012 women's light flyweight world champion.
Vietnam won four of the five golds on offer on the final day of artistic gymnastics at the Bishan Sports Hall. Dinh Phuong Thanh won the men's parallel bars and the horizontal bar to finish with five golds. Phan Thi Ha Thanh won the women’s beam title, giving her a third gold at these Games and matching her haul from four years ago.
Vietnam's Dinh Phuong Thanh celebrates winning the gold medal. Photo credit: SINGSOC