PETALING JAYA: US-based sprinter Shereen Samson Vallabouy has shattered her own 400m national indoor record for the third time in less than a year.
Her latest victory on Friday at the Lewis Invitational in Chicago, Illinois in 52.87 seconds, was a cracking performance that saw the runner-up finishing 3.12 seconds behind her.
Not only did Shereen slash 0.6 seconds off her previous mark set last month at the Bearson Gathje Classics in Minnesota, but it also made her the first Malaysian woman to dip below 53 seconds in the event.
Last March, the student of Winona State University in Minnesota clocked 53.79s to break the 16-year-old Malaysian record of 54.58s set by Noraseela Mohd Khalid.
Shereen’s feat comes on the heels of teen sensation Azeem Fahmi breaking the national record in the men’s indoor 60m in Texas last week.
The 18-year-old Auburn University student clocked 6.63s to eclipse Watson Nyambek’s 24-year-old record of 6.66s.
Azeem, who is also the national outdoor 100m record holder with a time of 10.09s, arrived in Alabama on Jan 4 to further his studies and undergo sprints training there.
Shereen, 24, said: “I’m working hard with coach Mason (Rebarchek) to maintain this momentum and hope to go below 52 seconds in the 400m as the season progresses.
“I have three more indoor meets, the conference championships and the nationals to go, after which preparations for the outdoor season will begin.”
Shereen, who is the third fastest Malaysian woman over outdoor 400m, said she hoped for a podium finish in the event at the Phnom Penh Sea Games in May.
There is optimism that she will break the 29-year-old record of 52.56s by Rabia Abdul Salam or perhaps outdo her Olympian mother, Josephine Mary Singarayar, who is the second fastest over the event at 52.65s.
Shereen, who is doing a degree in recreation and tourism, has been a standout athlete at the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division II track and field championships.
The Ipoh-born lass has received a US$52,000 (RM228,000) backing from tycoon Vincent Tan’s Better Malaysia Foundation (BMF) to help her pursue academic and sporting excellence.
Rebarchek, 44, said: “It was very exciting to see Shereen dip below 53 seconds in the indoor 400m and nearly match her outdoor best.
“We train speed, anaerobic endurance and aerobic endurance all year. The consistency is important, but most importantly, is for her to stay healthy and to train without interruption.”
“It’s exciting to see how much faster she is right now compared to this time a year ago.
“As the season continues, I think that if she can continue to stay healthy and train consistently, we’ll see big things from Shereen.”