Dual Commonwealth Games champion, Olympic and world champion Sally Pearson has drawn the curtain on a stellar career that has her sitting amongst the best Australian track and field athletes of all-time.
Sally (then Sally McLellan) burst onto the athletics scene winning the Australian under 20 100m title as a 14-year-old before making her senior debut as a relay runner at the IAAF World Championships in Paris in 2003, a month after winning the world youth 100m hurdles title.
Pearson made the first of three Commonwealth Games appearances in Melbourne in 2006, leading the 100m hurdles final before crashing to the ground… an early demonstration of her aggressive racing approach that defined her career. She returned to win bronze in the 4x100m.
Olympic silver in Beijing preceded an eventful 2010 Commonwealth Games campaign in Delhi where after a false start in the 100m Pearson was allowed to line up for the restart, crossing the line first and completing a victory lap only to be later disqualified. Three days later she returned to win her first Commonwealth Games gold medal in her pet 100m hurdles event.
2011 was perhaps her best year performance-wise, winning the 100m, 200m, and 100m hurdles Australian titles, capturing her first world championships with a Commonwealth, Oceania and Australian record time of 12.28 seconds – at the time the fourth fastest run ever recorded.
In London in 2012 Pearson claimed Olympic gold in Olympic record time and returned to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 to defend her title.
Injuries and mishaps started taking their toll and in 2015 in Rome, a fall resulted in a smashed wrist that almost ended her career. She missed the Rio Olympics and returned to the scene of her London triumph to win a world title in 2017, defeating world record holder Kendra Harrison of the USA in the upset of the championships.
With a home Games in her hometown ahead, Pearson was the face of the Gold Coast Games, however a day after carrying the Queen’s Baton on the final leg of its journey at the Opening Ceremony, she announced an Achilles injury had cruelled her hopes of a third consecutive hurdles title.
Alongside fellow dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist Steve Hooker, she retires having won all the major titles on offer in athletics – Olympic, world, world indoor, Continental and Commonwealth champion.
At 32, Pearson concludes her career as a four-time Commonwealth Games representative and two-time champion, a 16-time Australian champion, the 2011 IAAF Athlete of the Year, Commonwealth, Oceania and Australian record holder, two-time winner of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame ‘The Don’ Award and is still the sixth fastest hurdler of all time.
“I’m going to hang up my spikes,” Pearson announced this morning. ”After sixteen years on the Australian team my body’s just not up to it.”
“2018 was horrible and not being able to run at my home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast was horrible,” Pearson said.
“I have prided myself on always being on the start line ready to win. I no longer believe I can achieve this. It is therefore with much regret that I have come to the conclusion that it is time to retire from this phase of my life and move on to the next,” Pearson said.
I am here to let you all know that I have decided to retire from my sport of athletics. It has been a long 16 years, but also a fun and exciting 16 years. My body has decided it is time to let it go, and move forward onto a new direction.
— Sally Pearson OAM (@sallypearson) August 5, 2019
Commonwealth Games Australia President Ben Houston congratulated Pearson on her career and contribution to the Commonwealth Games.
“Across her 16-year representative career and four Commonwealth Games, Sally Pearson has left an indelible mark as a member of the Australian team and on Australian sport,” Houston said.
“In many ways her Commonwealth Games performances have been defined by brilliant highs and devastating lows, but each time she has dusted herself off, gritted her teeth and returned to the top for Australia.”
“All in the Commonwealth Games Australia family wish her the very best for the next phase of her life,” Houston said.