World 100m hurdles champion describes missing home Games through injury as “gut-wrenching”
Australia’s Sally Pearson has been forced to withdraw from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games due to an Achilles injury which she says has “flared up considerably” in the last few days.
The Australian athletics team co-captain has been the face of her home Games but in a press conference on Thursday she confirmed she would not be able to compete for a third consecutive 100m hurdles title, nor form part of the 4x100m relay team as originally planned.
“Not to be able to go out on to that track and run for Australia, it’s gut-wrenching, it’s heartbreaking,” said the 31-year-old, who lives just a 10-minute drive from the Carrara Stadium, venue for athletics competition and last night’s opening ceremony.
“I went out there last night into the opening ceremony and heard the roar for Australia and not being able to feel that for myself in my individual events is very disappointing.”
Pearson added that she knew two days ago that she might be forced to miss the Games, but the decision was made to announce her withdrawal on Thursday as she did not want to detract from the opening of the event.
“I was at a training session and I went there in full confidence,” she explained. “I went in to do some hurdles drills and some run throughs and just couldn’t do it. It was unfortunate that the timing was now but my health comes first.
“I wanted to be able to go into the opening ceremony and enjoy myself, I had a big role to play. That’s why I left it until today to announce it.”
Pearson has overcome more than her fair share of setbacks in her highly successful career so far and is confident that she can also bounce back from this latest disappointment.
After winning world gold in 2011 and her Olympic title in 2012, Pearson sustained two hamstring tears each year in 2013 and 2014, though still managed to retain her Commonwealth title in Glasgow and win world and world indoor silver medals. In 2015 she tore her calf during a race at the Rome Diamond League which caused her to crash to the track and shatter her wrist. Achilles and hamstring problems then forced her to miss last year’s Olympic Games in Rio but she stormed to victory at the world championships in London last summer.
“I know deep down that I can come back and be just as strong as I was last year,” she said.
“If I still want to do it, if I still love what I do, then why am I going to give that up? If I feel deep down that I can give so much more in this sport over the next few years then why don’t I give it a shot?”
However, she doesn’t anticipate returning to competition this summer, with Athletics Australia’s team doctor Paul Blackman explaining: “One of the things that you have to understand with tendons is they are highly unpredictable. It’s really difficult to look any more than the next month or two ahead at this point.”
Pearson added: “The most important thing is to make sure that I can get to those competitions (2019 world championships and 2020 Olympic Games) as strong as ever and be at my best again like I showed last year, coming back for the world championships.
“I’m taking on a broader job as a captain now,” she said, looking ahead to her role at the Games, for which athletics action begins on Sunday. “You’ll definitely be seeing me out at the track, looking after my team. Even if that’s just being the water girl! I’ve said to them: ‘If you need anything, I’m here for you.’ I have a lot of time on my hands now to be able to do what I can.”