Sally Pearson has revealed she knew “two days ago” she would have to quit the Commonwealth Games due to injury but dismissed suggestions she should have broken the bad news sooner.
The Australia hero announced on Thursday afternoon she was “absolutely gutted” to be pulling out and that “there were a lot of tears flowing” when she made the decision.
Pearson, who is from the Gold Coast and has been marketed as the face of the 21st edition of the Games, ruled herself out due to a months-old Achilles injury.
The problem means her bid for a third successive Commonwealth Games gold medal in her pet 100m hurdles event is over before it started.
“Gutted. Absolutely gutted,” Pearson said when asked to describe her emotions.
“It’s gut-wrenching … it’s heartbreaking … I did everything I possibly could. I left no stone unturned to get out here.”
Earlier on Thursday, Gold Coast Games boss Peter Beattie was forced to deny conspiracy theories that the popular hurdler had kept her injury a secret to help sell tickets to the Games.
“That’s a nonsense story,” Mr Beattie told News Corp. “That’s rubbish. That’s not us. We wouldn’t do that. She’s a legend. We would have loved her to be there. It’s up to her.”
Pearson said she entered a training session last month “with full confidence” and was happy with her training in Brisbane.
But she said her Achilles problem could “spike very quickly” and that she knew two days ago that racing on the Gold Coast was very unlikely.
And in a bid to get herself right for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Pearson said this was a decision she had to make.
“This is about my health. I want to go to Tokyo,” she said.
She also admitted feeling the pressure of being the local hero and said the roar Australia received at Wednesday’s opening ceremony, which she was heavily involved in, made her jealous about missing out.
The news of her injury came through just hours after Pearson featured – and ran, albeit gingerly – during the final stages of the Queen’s Baton relay.
Pearson initially walked through the Gold Coast on Wednesday afternoon before she was the final Australian athlete to carry the baton, breaking out into a casual jog before it was handed to Prince Charles at the ceremony – via a Commonwealth Games official.
She received a huge reception from a packed Carrara Stadium crowd in doing so, with Pearson an immensely popular figure in Australian sport.
As a result, the 100m hurdles final became one of the must-see events of these Games.
Pearson running was tipped to be the Gold Coast Games’ ‘Cathy Freeman moment’ – a nod to the Australia legend’s success after being our most-talked about athlete at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Pearson – who won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2012 Olympic Games – has suffered an unfortunate run with injury in recent years.
After breaking her wrist in 2015, disaster was to strike in 2016 when she missed the Rio Olympics with Achilles and hamstring problems.
Pearson’s injury may be the reason why she was not chosen to be Australia’s flagbearer at Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
Hockey captain Mark Knowles claimed that honour, to the surprise of many.
Events at the 2018 Games kicked off on Thursday morning (AEST), with the women’s triathlon starting proceedings.