Pear­son tri­umph one for the ages

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION - SCOTT GULLAN

SALLY Pear­son’s jour­ney to be­com­ing Aus­tralia’s most pro­lific track ath­lete of the mod­ern era be­gan as the world fo­cused on the Rio Olympics.

The Gold Coast hur­dler yes­ter­day claimed her sec­ond world ti­tle and passed Syd­ney Olympic golden girl Cathy Free­man in the record books.

Pear­son’s mirac­u­lous come­back to seal her place in Aus­tralian sport­ing folk­lore gained a new, ra­zor­sharp fo­cus last Au­gust well away from the world stage.

Cru­elled by ham­string in­juries and bro­ken wrist in a hor­rific fall in Rome in 2015, the 30- year- old took an un­usual step.

“On the first day of ath­let­ics at the ( Rio) Olympics I de­cided to coach my­self,” she said.

Pear­son said she best knew what she could and couldn’t do tak­ing into ac­count her age and in­juries.

“I knew I could do it,” she said.

Aus­tralian head coach Craig Hil­liard said Pear­son de­served her place among the greats of Aus­tralian sport. “That’s one of the great­est come­backs in Aus­tralian his­tory,” he said.

“It’s un­be­liev­able. I don’t get emo­tional that of­ten but you couldn’t help get­ting emo­tional in that with just the whole buildup and what she’s done in the last few weeks.”

Now Pear­son will be the face of next year’s Com­mon­wealth Games in her home­town of the Gold Coast and she hasn’t ruled out go­ing on to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“I missed out in Rio 2016 and so I’d love the idea of go­ing to Tokyo,” she said.

“But that’s an­other three years to go and it’s a mat­ter of whether my body can han­dle it.”

Pear­son’s hus­band, Kieran, said he wasn’t sur­prised his wife man­aged to win her sec­ond world ti­tle six years af­ter her first.

“( She amazes me) ev­ery day,” he said.

SALLY Pear­son’s world cham­pi­onship heist lends im­mense cred­i­bil­ity to her home city Com­mon­wealth Games just when it was needed.

Out of the busted flush which was Aus­tralia’s re­sults at the world swim­ming and ath­let­ics cham­pi­onships this year, the Gold Coaster gave April’s Games a lead­ing light, a guid­ing star.

These are now in prospect Pear­son’s Com­mon­wealth Games in the same way that for years be­fore­hand the 2000 Syd­ney Olympics had Cathy Free­man, world cham­pion in 1997 and 1999, as its cen­tral lo­cal fig­ure.

Pear­son cleared 10 hur­dles in win­ning her sec­ond 100m world fi­nal, but the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games vaulted a big­ger one in be­ing handed a fo­cus for Aus­tralians to be­come ex­cited about the event.

For Pear­son, for sev­eral months an of­fi­cial Games am­bas­sador, to run a good race in the Lon­don fi­nal and maybe win a medal, which was bluntly where she was at three weeks be­fore the world cham­pi­onships, would have been one thing.

To come out of a come­back clouded by such un­cer­tainty about her phys­i­cal ca­pac­i­ties and be­come, like Free­man and Jana Pittman, a dual world cham­pion gives the Com­mon­wealth Games a reign­ing Aus­tralian world cham­pion with a well- known life story.

She won the fi­nal yes­ter­day in a fash­ion that has been the tem­plate of her ca­reer. She came out of the blocks in front, put on a hur­dles clinic – her tech­nique hav­ing been honed with her first coach Sharon Han­nan – and kept her fo­cus when the field came at her in the last cou­ple of hur­dles.

The self- coached Queens­lan­der won the fi­nal yes­ter­day as the best racer in the field.

Pear­son first came into fo­cus in na­tional ath­let­ics in 2001 as 14- year- old Sally McLel­lan, when she turned down the chance to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia in an open 4x100m re­lay in New Zealand, pre­fer­ring in­stead to com­pete in Lit­tle Ath­let­ics.

At 16, she won a world youth cham­pi­onships gold medal in the 100m hur­dles in Sher­brooke, Canada. A skinny Ja­maican named Usain Bolt won his 200m fi­nal at the same meet.

Four­teen years later, Bolt has fi­nally run his race. Pear­son in­tends to race on. The game- for- any­thing Gold Coaster has one late present to give her home city.

Pic­ture: GETTY IMAGES

JUMP­ING FOR JOY: Sally Pear­son cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning gold.

IN­SPIRED: Sally Pear­son cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning gold in the women's 100 me­tres hur­dles at the IAAF World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don.

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