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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian hurdler Sally Pearson believes she has recaptured the quick starts that were her hallmark in the halcyon days when she swept to the world title and Olympic glory in successive years.
The 28-year-old will compete in her first international meeting outside Australia this year at Sunday's Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki as she builds up to the world championships in Beijing in August.
Pearson lost her 100 meters hurdles world title to American Brianna Rollins in Moscow in 2013 and has battled to match her form of 2011-12, when she was virtually unassailable and became her country's first IAAF female athlete of the year.
But the Gold Coast native was buoyed by her winning time of 12.59 seconds at national championships in Brisbane in March - the third fastest time of the year - and feels she is firing out of the blocks again.
"The way I ran at nationals was a relief more than anything," she said in an Athletics Australia news release.
"I've been trying to change my race a bit, especially my start, working toward getting it back to the good old days in 2011 and 2012 where I was the best starter in the world, and (until Brisbane) my start had been a bit off this year.
"I have been beaten out of the blocks and that's something I'm not used to.
"We have tried to get my quick start back to where it was and the information we have now shows that I am starting faster than I ever have, which is exciting.
"To me the start is the most important thing about my race and if I can nail that then not many people can catch me from there."
In Kawasaki, the reigning Olympic champion will face the biggest threats from Queen Harrison, 100m hurdles runner-up at U.S. trials last year, and her fellow American Kristi Castlin.
Pearson is being prepared by former hurdler Ash Mahoney, her third coach in three years after parting ways with Antony Drinkwater-Newman last year and long-time mentor Sharon Hannan in 2013.
Pearson is structuring her season differently this year, training at her Gold Coast base between two separate blocs of competition overseas.
The first stint will see her follow up the Golden Grand Prix with starts at Diamond League events at Doha, Rome and Birmingham.
The second will involve three more events in Europe before settling in for Australia's training camp in Japan ahead of the world championships.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney