The 100 meter hurdles is one of the toughest events from which an athlete can pick to excel in the sport of athletics. The quality of the athletes, the ferocity of the competition, and the ten hurdles give you ten, no, twenty opportunites to screw up the race. Athletes in the past have lead through hurdle nine, clipped the final hurdle and come crashing down before the finish.
And if there is any event where on is only as good as their last race, it is the 100 meter hurdles.
Let’s take Sally Pearson, for example.
Sally Pearson won her first title in 2003, at teh World YOuth Championships in Sherbrooke. In 2004, she took gold at the World Junior championships in Grosseto, Italy at the 100 meters, and just missed out on 100m hurdles medal. The young Australian had speed and could control it over the hurdles.
Sally Pearson has had good race, bad races and great races. All athletes do. With the hurdle races, it is even that much tougher.
The 100 meter hurdles require precision over the ten hurdles and great speed between. It is that combination of actions that one must master and for most, it takes years.
Pearson took the silver medal in Beijing in the 100 m hurdles as Lo Lo Jones, the US star, hit a final hurdle, stumbled and dropped out the medals. Sally Pearson kept her cool, taking the silver, with Dawn Harper Nelson taking the gold in a truly dramatic race.
In 2011, Sally Pearson took the gold in the Daegu World Championships. Pearson ran 12. 36 in the semi-finals and 12.28 in the finals, the 4th fastest time of all times.
In the rain in London, Sally Pearson won the gold over Dawn Harper Nelson, gold medalist from 2008. Sally ran 12.35, a new Olympic record, with Harper-Nelson at 12.37 and Kellie Wells, US also at 12.48. It took PBs for Nelson and Wells to take silver and bronze.
The 100 meter hurdles require near perfection. In 2013, Sally Pearson took the silver, as the Australian continued to battle with the very best in her event from around the world.
In 2015, at the Golden Gala, Sally Pearson had a horrific wrist break. Some have called it an explosion in her left forearm. Her 2015 season was over. In 2016, but a torn hamstring ended her season.
Sally Pearson admitted in interviews in 2017 that she was trying to decide, during this time, whether to keep racing or not. How does one rise back to the top after being injured? How does one tell oneself that the shape one had made look effortless was so terribly difficult to return to? Who in their right mind would want to put themselves back through that training and racing?
In an interview nearly three decades ago. 1972 Olympic gold and 1976 Olympic silver medalist at the marathon wondered out loud if an Olympic champion would put themselves through the tough work needed again to reach that level of fitness. In 2014, Wilson Kipketer shared with me how difficult for him it was to return to fitness after his bout with malaria, and how he had pushed way too hard way too early.
All of these questions and more must have went through Sally Pearson’s head. Sally would always be polite in pressers, but if one observed the fine athlete, one sensed that her competitive nature, which is all ecompassing, and her sense of self must have been challenged during her return to fitness in 2017.
Sally Pearson began to coach herself around August 8, 2016. Sally Pearson began training for 2017 during the Rio Olympics, as her event, the 100 meter hurdles was being run.
In June 2017, I watched Sally Pearson hurlde in adidas Boston meet, against some of the best that America had to offer. She ran good, not well. I could sense a bit of irritation in her demeanor. She wanted to be on top again, but, could she?
That was answered in August 2017 during the World Championpships. But, the answer began, really at the London Anniversary Games, July 9. In the first round, Sally Pearson won in 12.72, running aggresively. In the final, as Keni Harrison won in 12.39, Sally Pearson battled all the way to the finish, running 12.48, her best since 2012!
At the world championships, Sally Pearson ran aggressivley and cleanly over the hurdles from round 1, and by the semi-finals, was the women I was watching. Keni Harrison had a very bad semi final which seemed to put her out of the final race. In the final, it was Sally Pearson battlling Dawn Harper Nelson once again, as the Australian took the win, giving her six years between gold medals in the 100 meter hurdles.
If you look the pictures of Sally Pearson, there is a sense relief, pride, amazement and more pride. Sally Pearson does not like to loose, at anything, much less the 100 meter hurdles. In her presser at the (https://www.runblogrun.com/2017/08/weltklasse-zh-pressers-5-sally-pearson-karston-warholm-and-emma-coburn.html).
The speed with which one runs the 100 meter hurdles successfully is illusory to me. The years that it takes, and I remind you, Sally Pearson, like most she races against, have been doing their event since they were 14 or 15. But, if you really want to appreciate Sally Pearson, think of Gail Devers, the American super star who could not decide if she was a sprinter or a hurdler.
That is Dante’s ninth level of Hell for an athlete. What is their true event? Pearson has the leg speed of a real sprinter and the precision of a hurdler. But, after the injury, Sally Pearson, at least in this writer’s mind, could not find her mojo. She knew that she had it, she knew she was an Olympic champion and World Champion, but how to get back?
To me, Sally Pearson is a two time world champion outdoors and Olympic champion as well. But the battle, the battle with the self to get back to her previous level and surpass that is what truly makes her a great one.
Rest up Sally Pearson, 2018 will bring on more challenges and we can not wait to see you battle with the best.