SINGAPORE: Singapore athletics was a powerhouse in the region during the sixties, seventies and eighties. That golden era could be revived, with a new batch of athletes who could carry the country’s hopes high.
At April’s South East Asian Youth Athletics Championships, Singapore came out tops as the overall team based on points.
Of greater significance was the performance of a few individuals.
Sprinter Shanti Veronica Pereira finished second in the 200 metres race, despite a slight injury.
"I am more focused on the Singapore SEA Games in 2015 and I will just be training and training every day," she said. "I am hoping to go below 25 seconds or maybe 24.7 by 2015."
Another star of the meet, 18—year—old Ng Chin Hui, who won the 400 metre Boys’ U—21 race.
"I just qualified for the World Juniors based on my time," he said. "I’ll take it as an opportunity to gain exposure because the athletes are of pretty high standards."
Field events are also where young Singaporeans are excelling.
One of them is pole vaulter Chan Sheng Yao from Hwa Chong Institution, who is aiming for gold in the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games.
"Right now, my target is to break the national record, 5 metres, and from there and from there onwards, next year it will be the World Youth Championships," he said.
"I need to use the World Youth Championship as a platform for me to cross a higher height, because my ultimate target is to win the World Youth Championship."
The new management team at Singapore Athletics is fully behind these youngsters.
"We have set aside at least for overseas competition about S$80,000 to S$100,000 per year just on the youth and junior athletes," president of the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) Tan Weng Fei said.
Besides SAA, the Singapore Sports Council has also taken note of the capabilities of the young athletes.
"The key thing is to keep them healthy and injury free and keep them with a high level of competition," chairman of SSC Richard Seow said. "I think this competition is important. They need to compete more against the regional teams, against the Asian teams and I think that is going to do well for Singapore."
This group of young athletes have their work cut out for them as they try and help Singapore win at least seven gold medals at the 2015 SEA Games, a target set by Singapore Athletic Association as part of their plan to be the top three in the region.