Expectation may be Sally Pearson’s biggest hurdle
World champion hurdler Sally Pearson may do well to turn to Cathy Freeman to gain advice in how to handle the nation’s overwhelming expectations of her in the lead up to the London Olympics.
Although Pearson has the luxury of not having to compete in front of a home town crowd, the pressure to perform will still be immense as Australia’s most prominent gold medal hope in athletics.
Long jumpers Mitchell Watt and Henry Frayne may have lifted some of the burden with their stellar early season performances, but as reigning world champion and number one ranked this season with two runs of 12.49, Pearson is hurdler to beat in London.
With the indifferent form of reigning Olympic pole champion Steve Hooker, the focus has shifted even further onto Pearson.
Defending Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper of the US is returning to form at the right time with a 12.73 second win in the last weekend’s national trials in Eugene, Oregon. She was chased home by Kellie Wells, who ran 12.77, and Lolo Jones in 12.86.
Jones was the initial favourite for the Beijing gold four years ago but finished seventh after hitting the last hurdle and stumbling to the line.
Pearson has been doing a lot of work over the flat 100 metres in the past twelve months and possesses some incredible speed between the hurdles at present. While this may sound like an added bonus for a hurdler it can actually be a curse.
As speed is accumulated down the straight, it can bring the runner progressively closer to each hurdle on take off, as American Gail Devers found in the final of 1992 Barcelona Games when she hit the last barrier and fell losing a certain gold medal. Devers had won the gold medal earlier in that week over the flat 100 metres.
The cold and windy weather that is the feature of 2012 English summer to date, may also rob Pearson of the chance to threaten the world record. The time of 12.21 seconds has stood since 1988 set by Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria, during the drug tainted years of dominance by the eastern block countries.
Although Donkova never returned a positive test during her career, suspicion over the genuineness of the time has always remained. She had the dubious nickname of “The Alien” due to her strong facial bone and muscle structure.
Pearson went agonisingly close to the record in Daegu, Korea, in August last year when she won the world championships in 12.28, but her focus then was squarely on the title, not the time.
The women’s 100 metre hurdles final is scheduled for 6:15am. AEST, August 8th.
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