In 2015 when Singapore hosted the biennial Southeast Asian Games after a 22-year-long hiatus, one of the Games’ most defining moments was Shanti Veronica Pereira’s gold medal in the 200-meter women’s event.
It was a feat that was a long time in the making, as it had been 42 years since a Singaporean last clinched a gold in that event.
Shanti has proven that she is not just a champion on the track – but also in life. She launched a children book not only to commemorate the moment, but more so to inspire and encourage the younger generation to never give up on their dreams, whatever they may be.
Co-authored by her two older sisters, Valerie, 30, and Shobi, 35, the trio launched Go Shanti Go! with Sienny Septibella as the book’s illustrator.
Go Shanti Go! chronicles Shanti’s life thus far – from how she was first inspired as a young girl to be an athlete, to lacing up after watching her sister Valerie represent the Republic at the 2011 SEA Games (Jakarta-Palembang), and finally, to her breakthrough gold-winning performance at the 2015 SEA Games.
A heart-warming story that’s sure to inspire readers to keep the faith and chase after their dreams, Go Shanti Go! makes for a timely tale of hope and care, especially in the midst of this pandemic.
The book is recommended for children 3 to 7 years old, and is available at http://www.goshantigo.com/ for $14.90.
Featured below is an exclusive interview with the three sisters:
Congratulations on the book launch! Whose idea was it to write this book?
Shanti: It was my sisters that came up with this idea of writing a children’s book. Shortly after the SEA Games, my siblings and I took a trip to Bali and one morning we started talking about the SEA Games over breakfast. About how amazing it was for me and for them. We even watched the video again to relive the moment! It was then that we thought we needed to find some way to pin this down so as to remember it for a long time.
I think the actual idea came about because kids and parents kept coming up to me and my other family members to tell us how we’ve been an inspiration to them, as well as how they wanted to be like me when they grew up. So then, we thought that a children’s book would be the perfect way to tell my story while keeping it told in a manner that children can easily relate to and feel inspired by.
Tell us more about this book, your experience writing it and what you hope to achieve through it.
Valerie: The book is a kid-friendly and very condensed version of Shanti’s track-and-field journey – beginning from when she was a young girl, up to the 2015 SEA Games where she won the gold medal in the 200m event. We wanted the book to capture moments that would encourage questions and allow for positive discussions about sport between parent and child.
We went through several drafts, reading it to groups of kids to make sure that the language was easy to understand, while still retaining some of the terms that are commonly used in athletics/sports. We had lots of help from friends too, who would give us feedback and also shared contacts with us to find out more on how to go about self-publishing a book.
The book took on a few working titles before we realised that we had the perfect name for the book all this while! Go Shanti Go! started off as a hashtag that was created 7 years ago by one of the staff at Singapore Athletics. Shanti was competing overseas at the World Youth Championships, and people back home started using the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram as a way to cheer Shanti on. The hashtag stuck, and in 2015 we printed “Go Shanti Go” on T-shirts that our entire family wore to the stadium!
We hope that the book will be an inspiration for Shanti to keep going through the toughest of times as an athlete, and for other athletes to also know that there are many people supporting them! Most of all, we want to remind children to be brave and to never lose sight of their dreams.
Is the book totally funded by the Pereira sisters, or were there other contributors?
Shanti: We are extremely grateful to have Adidas Singapore come on board as a supporter of this book. They helped us with the printing of the books, while we funded other costs such as engaging an illustrator, delivery and miscellaneous costs.
The illustrations for the book are amazing. How did you find and decide on such a talent?
Valerie: I had an idea about how I wanted the illustrations to look so when searching for illustrators, I looked for those that had that particular style. The search took a while; I spent a lot of time researching online and browsing through Instagram and hashtags until I came across this one Instagram page one day. I contacted Bella, and we started working on the book together. After seeing her first draft of illustrations, we knew that we had found the perfect illustrator to bring the book to life!
What was it like working with each other for this book?
Shobi: Coming up with the storyline was fun! We already knew which points exactly we wanted to highlight, as a lot of the memories we had of Shanti’s journey were similar: from her days running up and down the grass patch watching Val[erie] run, to her ups and downs in primary school which led to her immense passion for the sport, and which later culminated in her pursuing her passion for running. I think for me, working with family has always been a part of my life, so working with my sisters was easy. Having a project like this which reflected our feelings as a family was really the best part of it all, and it kept us focused on the goal at hand – which was to inspire both people in the sport, and Shanti.
What’s one word to best describe each of the Pereira sisters (Shobi, Valerie and Shanti)?
• Valerie : determined
• Shanti : driven
• Shobi : creative
What are the personalities of the Pereira sisters like? Share with us what it’s like growing up in the Pereira household!
Shobi: For me, togetherness would be the one thing that comes to mind when I think of us growing up – from matching outfits for trips to the park, to Friday dinners, bowling days and our favourite “eat kai lan first” meals as a family. The plan was always for us to do things together and to support each other.
As the oldest sister, I do have to say that it’s amazing to see my younger siblings grow up to be such strong, kind, independent and creative individuals.
What kind of legacy do you think this book will leave for local athletics and children?
Shanti: The 2015 Games will always have a special place not just in my heart but also in the hearts of many Singaporeans that were present that day, or who read about it in the news. So firstly, this book would be our way of keeping that memory alive by sharing it with everyone in the best way we know how.
The story is based on true events that happened in my life, which intersects with local athletics, so I think it could be something that many local kids starting out in athletics can also relate to. (I think many adults who have gone through the process of being chosen for the national team can relate to it too). But I think at the end of the day, this book aims to not only commemorate the glorious moment back in 2015, but also serves as a way of telling children that as long as they work hard at what they want and not give up, they can achieve amazing things.
How has the response to the book been so far?
- Shanti: The response has been really good! I got a lot of good feedback about the illustrations and how my parents really do look like my parents haha. I was also told that the story line is very relatable. Like me, many people have gone through the process of running in primary and secondary school, before ultimately being chosen for the national team. And it will be the same for children desiring to follow that same path!
Valerie: We also love it when parents feedback to us that their children are asking questions, like “what is a warm up?” Or that they could develop a discussion with them about why Shanti was crying in one of the pages, and then what she did about it – all natural parts of a sporting journey.
Shobi: For the kids, the title of the story really caught on! We had parents who shared with us that their children kept chanting “Go Shanti Go!” at home when they were reading, or while running around the house!
Other than the online platform http://www.goshantigo.com/, is the book available in shops?
Valerie: The book is available via our website but we do hope to be able to get it into some shops in the future.
Are there more books in the pipeline for the Go Shanti Go! series?
Shobi: I think for now, we are very happy with this book and what it has done so far in achieving the objective of inspiring our young ones to dream and work hard for their dreams. But, just like we set out to encourage people and shed more light on the sport, athletes have more than one experience that can be inspiring – from training and travelling, to setting new goals. So maybe? Haha.
Are there more fledgling Pereira athletes in the making?
- Valerie: My son is very athletic and loves running, and my daughter loves chasing after her brother, as well as yelling “Goal!” at the TV when her father is watching football. But they do have other interests as well, so we’ll see!
Shobi: I think as Val[erie] said, the kids enjoy sports! My daughter has a love for cricket because she plays it with her dad. She also loves gearing herself up like Shanti does at the starting blocks, waiting for the “on your marks, set, go!” to blast off! So yeah, we’ll see!
Singapore Athletics would like to thank the Pereira sisters for the opportunity for this interview. Do support their book launch by purchasing Go Shanti Go! at http://www.goshantigo.com/
19th Oct 2020