No hurdle too big for golden girl Sally Pearson
SALLY Pearson became just the 10th Australian female track and field athlete to win Olympic gold in London three years ago.
And she doesn't plan to let a broken wrist stop her bid to become the first woman in Olympic history to successfully defend that gold medal in the 100m hurdles in Rio next year.
The 29-year-old suffered the injury at a Diamond League meet in Rome in June, putting her wrist down to break her fall after hitting a hurdle hard mid-race.
The doctors described it as a "bone explosion", with Pearson admitting she feared she may have needed an amputation after the wrist turned blue.
After two operations - the first in Rome and the second back in Australia - she ended up with a metal plate in her wrist and a screw through her scaphoid bone.
Four months on and the initial feelings of despair have gone.
She may have missed the world championships, but her campaign for Rio is back on track, underpinned by the realisation she was actually lucky to escape with the injury she did.
"It's a bit slow getting it moving, and I still can't lift heavy things," she said.
"But it could have been worse - if it had been my ankle ..."
Pearson is back running, and said the primary goal at this point was to be ready for the Australian Championships in Sydney in March, with that event doubling as the Olympic trials.
"I haven't done huge volumes of training - it's just a day-to-day process at this stage," she said.
"My coach hasn't focused on any meet in particular (to return to competition) - not that he has told me about anyway.
"But we're on track."
While a fit Sally Pearson will be one of Australia's gold medal hopes in track-and-field in Rio, she said she was confident some world-class athletes were coming through the ranks.
Anneliese Rubie became the first Australian woman since Cathy Freeman to reach the semi-finals of the 400m at the world championships, slashing more than half a second off her personal best with a run of 51.69 seconds.
And 19-year-old high jumper Eleanor Patterson also showed she could be a force to be reckoned with. The youngest competitor in the field in Beijing, Patterson finished in eighth place with a jump of 1.92m.
Despite her inexperience, Patterson said she was bitterly disappointed with the result, and would work her butt off in the lead-up to the Rio Games.
The weight of expectation, whether personal or from a whole nation, can be difficult to live up to.
It's something Pearson has faced for much of her career, and something she said she had learned to deal with.
In a recent blog on her website, she wrote that she no longer cared about conforming to other people's expectations.
"I know people struggle to be around me when I am Sally the athlete because I am really quite intense and can be quite intimidating," she wrote.
"This is who I am and I am not apologising for it again. I have apologised way too many times in my life for being myself. I feel if I am not being myself I can't get the job done nearly half as good (sic).
"I am now allowing myself to say that this is OK. It's OK to have your own personality, it's OK to grow into the person you were meant to be and it's OK to not grow into the person other people want you to be."
Asked what prompted those comments, she said she had realised she hadn't always been true to herself.
"It was just me taking the pressure off," she said.
"You just need to bring it back to the basics - just focus on your own expectations.
"I've found my happy place."
That augurs well for her preparations for the Rio Olympics, where her single-minded focus on her performance should take her a long way towards putting her name in the record books.
"As long as there's a track and 10 hurdles in front of me - I'll be good," she said.
Ready to inspire
SALLY Pearson and fellow Aussie Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares have been appointed Olympic Ambassadors for Cadbury, sponsor of the Australian Olympic team.
They will provide a connection to our top athletes in the lead up to the 2016 Games in Rio to help inspire the nation to get behind the team. Australian Olympic officials have set a target of 45 medals in Rio, including 14 gold.
Our golden girl
2006: Bronze medal in the 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne
2008: Silver medal in the 100m hurdles at the Beijing Olympics
2010: Gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi 2011: Gold medal at the world championships in South Korea in 12.28 secs - just .07 secs outside the world record. She was unbeaten in 2011 and was named IAAF female athlete of the year
2012: Gold medal at the London Games in a new Olympic record time of 12.35 secs
2013: Silver medal at the world championships
2014: Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 12.67 secs in Moscow