She hasn’t raced for almost a year and will rely on a brand new starting technique, but Athletics Australia’s head coach is adamant Sally Pearson can still strike gold in Rio.
No woman in Olympic history has successfully defended their 100-metre hurdles title – and certainly no woman has gone back-to-back after having her build-up turned upside by such a shocking injury.
Pearson has been forced to revamp her start due to the wrist fracture sustained in a fall in Rome last June.
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Given the 29-year-old only secured gold by two one-hundredths of a second in London, it’s nigh on inconceivable to think she could afford the slightest error out of the blocks in Brazil and still prevail.
Yet Craig Hilliard, a one-time hurdler himself, insists if anyone can do it, it’s Pearson, the golden girl of Australian track and field.
“She wouldn’t be staying in the game and do what she’s doing if she didn’t believe she couldn’t get there and win a gold medal,” Hilliard told AAP on the eve of Australia’s Olympic trials in Sydney this weekend.
“She can certainly contend for it.”
Hilliard believes the key to Pearson conquering her new starting technique is mind over matter.
“It’s more of an awareness for her. Sally’s very adept at adapting to different situations. That’s why she’s as good as she is,” he said.
“This is another setback that she has to take on board and modify slightly and the more and more she practices, the more she’ll get used to it and will be become routine for her.
“It would have felt quite foreign to start with, but it will be second nature to her.”
Pearson is hoping to return to racing in May or early June, leaving her barely two months to find her groove and regain confidence for another Olympic tilt.
“Look, it’s not optimal, it’s not where ideally she wants to be, absolutely,” Hilliard said.
“But she’s learned to think how to manage her injuries – and they were horrific injuries she had – and she’s had a few minor little setbacks.
“But she’s back training now and that’s the main thing.
“She’s starting her hurdling drills and the closer it gets, then we’ll have a much clearer picture of where she is.”