Pearson triumph one for the ages
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.
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.