Vanessa Lee sets national steeplechase record, Latest Athletics News - The New Paper

Vanessa Lee sets national steeplechase record

Vanessa Lee was literally running against herself during the women’s 3,000m steeplechase at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium on April 18.

As the only competitor in the timed final, Lee used a beeper in her smartwatch to let her know if she was on track at every 100m interval as she went on to break Cheryl Chan’s national record of 11min 14.70sec set in 2020.

After clocking 11:09.16, the 26-year-old collapsed into a sobbing heap because, not only did she achieve a new national mark, pending ratification, she had also conquered her demons.

The distance runner, who usually competes in the 5,000m, 10,000m and half-marathon, said: “In my opinion, the steeplechase is the hardest event. We run a long distance, add hurdles, and as if that is not hard enough, we have a water jump. Whoever invented this event is a monster.”

Lee said she resumed racing in steeplechase only this year, after a self-imposed five-year hiatus from the event following a bad experience at the 2018 Asean University Games (AUG) when heavy menstruation affected her race.

The sales executive said: “I started competing in the steeplechase in junior college and set the women’s national Under-20 record (11:45.09) at the 2017 Singapore Open. I was very excited about this event because I was close to the national record then.

“But something eventually broke me mentally, and my body said ‘No’ at the AUG. The night before my event, I had a really heavy period and it made me very fatigued. I tried my best, but I couldn’t hack it. That incident broke me for steeplechase and I didn’t want to do this event any more.

“I had put in a lot of hours into training, taking out and setting up the barriers, running and training alone as the only girl doing the steeplechase, and I had enough. I only just restarted this year after my friend told me to give it a try because I’m in good shape because of my distance training.”

Lee finished sixth in the women’s 5,000m and seventh in the 10,000m at the 2023 SEA Games but, buoyed by her national record, she is working to qualify for the steeplechase event at the 2025 SEA Games in Thailand. The qualifying criteria set by the Singapore National Olympic Council is the bronze-medal mark at the last edition, which is Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Huong’s time of 11:00.85.

Meanwhile, Marc Louis cemented his status as the fastest man in Singapore when he cantered home in 10.36sec to win the men’s 100m final, ahead of Chinese Taipei’s Wei Tai-sheng (10.62sec) and Singapore’s Praharsh Subash Soman (10.74sec).

The 21-year-old, who was also delighted to be reunited with his lucky cross pendant after it dropped off his necklace post-race, said: “This is a season best in my third race for the season, and I’m excited for what is to come.”

The full-time national serviceman, whose operationally ready date is in August, had set a national record of 10.27sec at the Asian Games on Sept 30, and the result puts him in pole position to earn a wild card to the July 26-Aug 11 Paris Olympics.

As sprinter Shanti Pereira has met the women’s 200m entry standard for Paris 2024, Singapore is allowed to enter its best-ranked male athlete in the 100m, 800m or marathon – based on results between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024 – through the universality quota if none of them has qualified outright.

On its website, Singapore Athletics states that athletes’ performances are ranked using percentile under World Athletics’ (WA) scoring table, and it will nominate the athlete who has a result closer to the Olympics entry standard to take the universality place.

At the moment, Louis looks set to make his Olympic debut as according to the WA scoring table, his 100m national record of 10.27sec is 7.5 per cent off the Olympic entry standard of 10sec.

In the last two years, no one has overtaken the national records in the 800m (1:50.56) and marathon (2hr 22min 59sec), which are more than 12 per cent off the Olympic entry standards of 1:44.70 and 2:08:10 respectively.

Louis is not taking any chances, however, and hopes to become the first Asean man to meet the 10-second mark in upcoming meets in Europe. He said: “I can’t just wait around for the wild card, I will do what I can to meet the entry standard. Of course, I believe I have what it takes to run 10 seconds, I must believe in order to succeed.”

In the women’s 100m final, Singapore’s Elizabeth-Ann Tan was first across the line in a season-best 11.99sec, followed by South Korean Kim So-eun (12.28sec) and Singaporean Kerstin Ong (12.49sec).