LONDON (Reuters) - The relief was clear on Sally Pearson’s face when the 100 meters hurdles world and Olympic champion crossed the line at the Olympic stadium in London on Saturday for her first Diamond League victory of the season.
Pearson, who powered to the Olympic title on the same track last year, has been struggling with her form since returning in June from a hamstring tear and with the world championships next month the strain had been starting to show.
But on Saturday in front of a 60,000 crowd some of the Olympic magic returned for the Australian and after reaching the first hurdle just in front, she accelerated away from the field to win in a season’s best time of 12.65 seconds, allowing herself a smile and a small whoop of delight at the finish.
“It was relief, it really was. You can understand how frustrating it’s been for me. It’s hard when you’re Olympic and world champion and getting absolutely smashed in races,” Pearson, who had been the dominant athlete in the event in recent years, told reporters.
“Everyone told me to be patient and believe in myself and that’s what I’ve done. I haven’t shied away and I’ve come here and worked hard every single competition.
“I got halfway through the race and thought: ‘Just take it easy, you’re in the lead, let’s just get over the finish line and have a confidence boost for the world championships’ the 26-year-old said.
“I came out with a win today, not so much a fast time but definitely a win and that just shows that I do like the big occasions,” added Pearson who now has three weeks before the hurdles heats at the world championships in Moscow to hone her speed.
On paper, American Brianna Rollins is Pearson’s main rival for the title after the 21-year-old equaled the fourth fastest 100 meters hurdles ever run with her 12.26 second run the U.S. world championship trials last month.
“It’s a shame she hasn’t come out to race with us girls who are always on the tour but people have their own way of preparing for a major championships,” said Pearson, whose own personal best time is 12.28 set in Daegu at the 2011 world championships.
“She’s never been to one so it’ll be interesting to see how she goes. Obviously she can run fast but at the same time my goal this time is just to focus on what I have to do and hopefully come out with a win again at the worlds.”
Asked what time she thought would be needed to win in Moscow, Pearson replied: “I don’t care if I run 13 seconds as long as I cross the finish line first. That’s definitely how I’ll be taking it into the world championships.”
Editing by Mitch Phillips