Is Sally Pearson’s Australia’s greatest modern field athlete?

By John Salvado,

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17 Have your say

    For any number of reasons, Cathy Freeman’s triumph in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics arguably stands alone in the annals of Australian track and field history.

    Having lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony, Freeman carried the hopes of a nation to victory.

    That she was the first indigenous athlete to win individual gold at Olympic level only added to the significance of her triumph.

    Freeman’s place as an all-time Australian sporting great is unchallenged – and it always be.

    But in winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the world titles in London on Saturday night, Sally Pearson can now lay claim to an even better record than Freeman in her favoured event at global championships.

    Pearson’s three major titles came at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 and 2017 world championships.

    Freeman’s three 400m titles were at the Sydney Olympics and the 1997 and 1999 world championships.

    But Pearson has also won two major silver medals, while Freeman only has the one.

    For the first time, a good case can be made that the 30-year-old Pearson is Australia’s greatest track and field athlete of the modern era.

    Another interesting comparison is with the great Betty Cuthbert, who died earlier this month aged 79.

    In the amateur era before the world championships, Cuthbert won four Olympic track gold medals in four different events.

    Cuthbert is the only track and field athlete – male or female – to win Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • August 13th 2017 @ 8:36am
      Torchbearer said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      A hard one to call until Sally hangs up her spikes.
      I would ever so slightly give it to Cathy, as her Atlanta time (and to some extent Sydney time) are still way in front of all following women. Her Atlanta time has not been beaten since (unfortunately it was beaten on the day!!!). Her Sydney time of 17 years ago would have won this weeks world title.
      Don’t forget Jarred Talent, he goes under the radar, but in his doping riddled sport he has managed 7 Olympic and World medals.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 11:11am
      republican said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      …..she’s clearly world class but then there isn’t much competition coming out of Oz these days.
      Its just as well our women maintain some world status in respect of Australian sport because our blokes are very mediocre indeed……

      • August 13th 2017 @ 3:36pm
        Jameswm said | August 13th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        Do you have any comprehension how tough it is, and how much the Brits (for example) financially support their athletes compared to us?

        • August 14th 2017 @ 2:22pm
          republican said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

          ……..& another analogy, how much the Kiwis, the Ethiopians, the Kenyans, Ghana et el, support theirs James?

          • August 14th 2017 @ 2:37pm
            jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

            Did the Kiwis get 62 athletes qualified?

            You can’t compare us to Kenya and Ethoipia. Apples and oranges. Culturally different.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 4:29pm
      Carl said | August 13th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

      Who knows if she is the best, but she certainly is the most determined. I assume you have to be like that to be so focused on winning. Congratulations to you, Sally. A most wonderful technician over the hurdles. Here’s to Gold Coast 2018 and maybe Tokyo 2020.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 7:15pm
      HarryT said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

      Pretty slow time.

      For an Australian to be at the top of a sprint event is amazing these days and her gradual progression indicates that she has done it clean. Technically she is the best ever and her bent lead leg changed the game.

      That Brianna Rollins was absent for missing three drug tests suggests the US is being more vigilant.

      Some credit should also go to Sharon Hannan and QIS.

      She is one of the greats and she is also such a good ambassador for this country.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 8:38am
        jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        It was cold – no one ran fast sprint times.

        One of our greats indeed – and how good was Dani Samuels/Stevens? Incredible throw, would have won the last 4 Olympics at least.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 10:28am
          HarryT said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          Great throw.

          World class discus throwers often say they have four or five perfect throws in their careers. This was definitely one of Dani’s.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 11:03am
            jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

            PB by what – 2-3m? Incredible. Knocked off a possibly dubious National record too.

            We just need a few more athletes to take the next big step now. Our young male 1500 runners perhaps, one of our long jumpers, Peacock or Roberts in the jav, La Caze in the steeple etc.

            • August 14th 2017 @ 12:19pm
              HarryT said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

              Birkinhead, Hough, Peacock, Cann, La Caze, McAvoy(3k) and Jenneke is under 13s now.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 1:27pm
                jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

                Yeah Tiernan showed promise too and he’s only about 23.

                Jenneke might drop some time with some improved coaching and focus. Ella Nelson is another, if she gets back into top shape.

                Youngsters Riley Day and Ella Connolly are highly promising, though I think Australia gets it wrong a bit by having their athletes stay with their U/9s coach, like these 2 are. They should be working with the best coaches int he country. Day in particular has flaws in her running.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 2:38pm
                HarryT said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

                The trouble for Day and Connolly is that Athletics Australia have virtually abandoned support for sprinters. They would be better off getting into the US college system.

                Interesting point about coaches. Dani, Sally and the Peacocks have all had long time mentors. In Sally’s case, her injury problems only started when she left Hannan. Samuels’ technique and strength changed dramatically after a week with Mac Wilkins, yet she has stayed with Knowles. The Peacocks don’t really have a choice, but the word is that they maybe would have benefited from a change.

                For a profession that guarantees poverty we have some very good coaches and the knowledge bank of the various institutes of sport is substantial.

              • August 15th 2017 @ 3:31pm
                jameswm said | August 15th 2017 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

                Look it isn’t like we’re spoilt for choice in Australia I have to say. But some of our World Champ athletes (runners) I know for a fact would benefit from a coaching change. Some have made that change.

                In my part of the world we do have some very good sprint coaches for example – the type who have themselves trained with top overseas coaches, and have been to several Olympics, Comm Games, Euro Champs etc. But there aren’t many, and there are only so many athletes they can coach.

                By abandoning support – do you mean NASS grants? Trae Williams broke the National U20 100 record which should have got him a NASS grant, but didn’t. Is that what you mean? Focusing more on events where we’re a better chance of top 8s and medals, you mean? You do need sprinters for relays, though.

              • August 21st 2017 @ 1:03pm
                HarryT said | August 21st 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                Yeah, focusing on other sports, particularly with regards to junior identification and development.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 2:49pm
      Chris Lewis said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      Sally is certainly one of our best ever, most determined, and astute.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 9:30am
      Johnno said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      You could argue she is better, in many ways Mary Jose Perec was the star of her era, not Freeman. Where as Sally Pearson is the undisputed star. You can only play and compete what’s in front of you, but who knows at Sydney if Mary Jose Perec had it together she might well of won at sydney. I’d argue maybe Sally Pearson is better as she is the clear no 1, where as Cathy Freeman may not be…

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