Sally Pearson, Australia's great gold hope
Hungry ... Sally Pearson. Photo: Getty images
COMETH the hour, cometh the woman.
Four years of working, nine days of watching, Sally Pearson finally stands before the first hurdle, which is also figuratively her second last to clear.
Tonight Pearson will line up in the heats of the 100 metres hurdles, knowing she is the world champion, mindful of a recent - and rare - defeat. With her will go the hopes of a desperate nation willing her to return the fig leaf of golden Olympic pride.
The 25-year-old, an outsider who stunned no one more than herself with her silver in Beijing, will carry favouritism into London, despite the loss to the American Kellie Wells at Crystal Palace three weeks ago. That defeat, which came after a thundering crash in the warm-up, was only the second time she had been beaten in 34 races.
She is ready. ''I think what keeps me fast and at my best is because I have always stayed hungry,'' she said.
''I know that these girls can beat me. They have done it before. I know it is going to be tough. These are the Olympic Games. Everyone has to lift and I think that is my key. I stay hungry. I stay grounded.''
Like a fast bowler being given the new ball on a bouncy Perth pitch, Pearson will need to be as worried about control as getting overly excited with the fast pace of the London track, dubbed the ''Magic Carpet''. A large number of personal bests and national records fell on day one of the athletics - and it alters the rhythm of hurdlers in particular.
But her coach, Sharon Hannan, believes her tight technique means if she runs a clean and controlled race, her opponents will not match her. ''I don't think their technique will hold up at much greater speed. There is no denying that technically Sally is outstanding,'' Hannan said.
''Therefore there is far less error involved, far less because she's not all over the place. So everything is going far more linear and there is far less room for error.''
Pearson and Hannan have planned for her to peak with a personal best in the final, as they did last year when she claimed the world champion crown in Daegu, South Korea, trimming her PB to 12.28, just 0.7 outside the world record. ''Certainly we want a season best … We are not expecting to get Daegu-type conditions. If we had conditions like we had last week [when the temperature was in the low 30s in London] you start getting a little bit tingly. That's exciting,'' Hannan said.
In a twist, Pearson will not have to square off against Great Britain's Jessica Ennis, who ruled out backing up after her heptathlon gold.
Pearson is the fastest woman this year, having recorded a 12.40 seconds in Paris last month. But Ennis would have been a serious contender if her time in the hurdles leg of the heptathlon, 12.54 seconds, was any indication. ''For me it was just about the heptathlon,'' said the darling of British athletics. ''Right now, it is just to enjoy this moment for as long as I can.''
The heats of the 100m hurdles start at 7pm tonight (Sydney time). The semi-finals and final are run at 4.15am and 6am, respectively, on Wednesday.
From: The Sydney Morning Herald