Af­ter years of pain, Pear­son has podium on radar

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

MELBOURNE — Aus­tralian hur­dler Sally Pear­son will re­turn to the scene of her great­est triumph when the World Athletics Cham­pi­onships get un­der­way at Lon­don Sta­dium, hope­ful of cap­ping an emo­tion­ally drain­ing come­back with a spot on the podium.

Five years ago, Pear­son stormed to 100m hur­dles gold at the Lon­don 2012 Olympics, a crown­ing mo­ment af­ter dom­i­nat­ing the event in a twoyear pe­riod that in­cluded her vic­tory at the 2011 world cham­pi­onships in Daegu and be­ing named the IAAF women’s ath­lete of the year.

Pear­son re­turned to claim sil­ver at the 2013 worlds in Moscow but has since been ab­sent from the big­gest stages due to a nasty run of in­juries.

At 30 years of age, with creaky ham­strings and a wrist that re­fuses to bend prop­erly af­ter a “bone ex­plo­sion” dur­ing a sick­en­ing fall on the track in 2015, Pear­son is none­the­less back and run­ning fast again.

Lon­don Sta­dium, which hosts the cham­pi­onships from Aug 4-13, seems to bring out the best in Pear­son, who posted a 12.48sec run at the Di­a­mond League meet­ing there last month as run­ner-up be­hind world record holder Ken­dra Har­ri­son of the United States.

It was Pear­son’s quick­est time since her 12.35 run to win Olympic gold at the same venue and put her third on the year-best lists be­hind Har­ri­son (12.28) and sec­on­dranked Amer­i­can Jas­min Stow­ers (12.47).

The en­cour­ag­ing build-up has Pear­son eye­ing a medal next week, even as she tries to keep her hopes in check, hav- ing be­come ac­cus­tomed to crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment in re­cent years.

“I have to be fair on my­self and re­mem­ber where I have come from, re­mem­ber what I have been through with wrists, Achilles, ham­strings, all of that in a short space of time,” Pear­son told Aus­tralian me­dia at the na­tional team’s train­ing camp at Ton­bridge.

“But at the same time I am a com­peti­tor, so what do I choose? Do I choose to be fair to my­self and say, ‘Just go out there and en­joy it and have fun’? Yet my other side is go­ing, ‘You are go­ing out there to win’.

“I would love, deep down, I would love a medal. I re­ally would love a medal.

“I know you re­ally want me to say gold but that’s what I want, I would love a medal and I think that would be a huge suc­cess.

“Any color, that would be a huge suc­cess.”

Since miss­ing out on her Olympic ti­tle de­fense in Rio last year due to a ham­string strain, Pear­son wres­tled with thoughts of re­tire­ment be­fore re­solv­ing to take an­other crack at the big time.

She has plot­ted her come­back alone and there will be no calm­ing words from a coach be­fore she races on the world stage.

The process has been both lib­er­at­ing and racked with doubts, as shown when she broke down in tears upon qual­i­fy­ing for the worlds at the na­tional tri­als in Syd­ney in April.

Fac­ing a pow­er­ful US team boast­ing Har­ri­son, Olympic sil­ver medal­ist Nia Ali and 2008 Olympic cham­pion Dawn Harper-Nel­son, Pear­son is mindful of the chal­lenge.

“Know­ing what I have achieved in this sta­dium be­fore and know­ing I’m com­ing back again, prob­a­bly not as the fa­vorite to win but cer­tainly a con­tender to at least a medal or make a fi­nal or what­ever, that sits well with me,” said Pear­son.

“But it’s go­ing to be hard, it’s go­ing to be one of the hard­est races that I have ever done in my whole ca­reer, even harder than go­ing for (Olympic) gold in Lon­don.”

Aus­tralian Sally Pear­son re­turns to the scene of her 2012 Olympic 100m hur­dles vic­tory when the World Ath­letic Cham­pi­onships open in Lon­don this week.

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