Yayasan Kecermelangan Sukan Malaysia

Track coach who turned Shereen Vallabouy into an explosive force

There’s a little sparkle in Malaysian athletics, thanks to US-based 400m ace Shereen Vallabouy who will be competing this month in the World Athletics Championships on a wild card. She is the first Malaysian woman athlete to feature at the championships in 11 years, the last one being 100m runner Norjannah Hafiszah Jamaludin, who ran on a wild card in Daegu, South Korea. The poster girl of Malaysian athletics did not get a ticket to the meeting in Oregon in the US simply by being the daughter of celebrated middle-distance runners, Josephine Mary Singarayar and Samson Vallabouy. Someone has been pushing Shereen. He is her coach Mason Rebarchek, the man with the stopwatch, the notepad, the carefully prepared training schedule, the diary of events and the diet plans. It was Rebarchek who guided Shereen to her personal best of 52.68s to win the 400m gold at the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division II track and field championships in May. In March, Shereen became the first Malaysian woman to go under 54 seconds at the NCAA indoor 400m, clocking 53.79s to break the 16-year-old national record of 54.58s by Noraseela Mohd Khalid. In Oregon, there is optimism that she will break the 29-year-old outdoor Malaysian 400m record of 52.56s by Rabia Abdul Salam or perhaps outdo her Olympian mother, who is the second fastest over the event at 52.65s. For that to happen, Shereen needs Rebarchek by her side as she goes up against the world’s best in 400m. But Malaysia Athletics Federation vice-president Josephine Kang will accompany Shereen and Nauraj Singh Randhawa, who qualified as the 30th ranked high jumper in the world, as the team manager.

Round one of the women’s 400m in Oregon is on July 17 and Rebarchek told FMT he intends to travel there from Minnesota on his own to coach Shereen. Rebarchek said Shereen’s speed and explosiveness were at a whole new level and that he expected her to “run very fast” in Oregon and at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this month. “It has been a joy and honour to help Shereen reach personal bests and she has continued to work hard to prepare for both the meets,” he said. Rebarchek, 44, is the head track and field coach at Winona State University in Minnesota where Shereen, who is doing a degree in recreation and tourism, is the only foreign-born athlete in the university’s 35-member team now. “She’s the first NCAA track champion whom I’ve trained in my 18 years of collegiate coaching and the first NCAA champion in a track event that our university has had,” he said. The former 110m hurdler and NCAA Division 3 All-American said Shereen had grown a lot as an athlete throughout the 2022 indoor and outdoor seasons. “She has worked very hard and has been committed to all the things it takes to be successful. “She takes care of her sleep, nutrition, recovery days, and her studies. “We spend about 2.5 hours per day, four days a week, on physical training plus the time she puts in to do recovery and therapy activities before and after practice as well as on two of her days off each week.” Shereen came under his wing through the recommendation of Malaysia-born Waihon Liew, a former Winona State University student and athlete. He said Shereen made quick improvements after she arrived at her university in January 2019. However, an injury in April 2019 set her back and she took a long time to recover. It was not until January 2021 that she was healthy and training consistently again. Rebarchek said: “During early season training in September and October last year, it was obvious that she was going to do big things. “At the NCAA indoor national championships, she broke through and gained a new understanding of how to run the 400m. “She gained new confidence in the preliminary round and cemented her new confidence and understanding of how to race the 400m in the final, which she won and became NCAA champion and broke the Malaysian indoor 400m record. “During the outdoor season, she continued to build on her success and what she learned at the indoor championships. She continued to get stronger and more fit. “Her NCAA outdoor season culminated in her winning the outdoor championship in a personal best time of 52.68s.” He said his only expectations of Shereen in Oregon and Birmingham were that she continued to prepare to the best of her ability. “I am extremely happy with how she has grown in her mental strength and what matters now is that she executes her races well, both mentally and physically. “I don’t sense any pressure from Malaysia. They seem very supportive of her and I am excited that they have entered her in the meets,” he said. The ticket to the world championships is an early birthday gift to Ipoh-born Shereen, who will turn 24 on July 10.

Courtesy from – FreeMalaysiaToday