Unstoppable Pearson targeting a medal at world titles
1 August 2017
ATHLETICS: There are plenty of logical reasons why Sally Pearson shouldn't be shouldering huge expectations at the World Athletics Championships.
A string of of serious Achilles, hamstring and wrist injuries made the 2015 and 2016 seasons virtual write-offs and had the 2011 world and 2012 Olympic 100m hurdles champion seriously contemplating retirement.
As the Rio Games were getting underway last year, Pearson was at home on the Gold Coast, having made the momentous decision to coach herself.
Part of her said that just getting back to racing again at the highest level would be an admirable aim.
But in reality that was never going to satisfy one of the most driven sportspeople to ever don the green and gold.
A flying effort of 12.48 seconds at the London Diamond League meet in early July was her quickest time since claiming Olympic gold at the same venue back in 2012.
She finished second that day behind world record holder Kendra Harrison from the United States, who is the deserved favourite to win a first world title in London in August.
It was the clearest sign yet that Pearson was back as a serious contender.
"Deep down I would love a medal - I would really love a medal," she said on Monday at the Australian pre-world championships training camp.
"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 colour, that would be a huge success and I would be very, very satisfied with a final place.
"I don't think they are unrealistic goals.
"It is going to be hard, it is going to be one of the hardest races that I have ever done in my whole career, even harder than going for gold in London, but you just have to try."
Harrison will head up a powerhouse four-pronged US challenge in the 100m hurdles at the world championships, while defending titleholder Danielle Williams from Jamaica is another serious threat.
But Harrison is the only hurdler in the field who has clocked faster times this year than Pearson's 12.48.
"Sometimes sport can definitely be a mind game," said the 30-year-old Australian.
"People know what I've done and people know what I'm capable of.
"No matter what has happened in 2013 and 2014, scrub out 2015 and 2016, those other two years I had injuries going into major championships and was still able to perform when it mattered.
"I think people know that and I don't have anything to prove to anyone else."
The raw speed is still there too, as evidenced by a 100m flat time of 11.25 last month.
Although she has enjoyed the challenge of coaching herself, Pearson has also benefited from technical input from head coach Craig Hilliard and fellow team coach Matt Beckenham at the training camp in Tonbridge.
The 100m hurdles and semis are on August 11, with the final scheduled for the following day