It was supposed to have been the Sally Pearson show. In the heats and the semi-finals there had been nothing to suggest that the Olympic champion from Australia would be denied in her mission to follow LoLo Jones into the record books as a back-to-back winner of the women’s 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Without a barrier clipped, and with clockings of 7.79 from her first-round heat and 7.81 from her semi-final, Pearson looked every inch back to the invincible form that preceded her hamstring problems of 2013. What we had all reckoned without, not least the red hot favourite herself, was a knockout blow from Ali.
US champion Nia Ali progressed to the final with times of 7.87 in the first round and 7.88 in the semi-final. When it mattered most, though, the 25-year-old produced a champion performance.
The 2011 World Student Games champion put the pressure on Pearson from the off, rising alongside her at the first hurdle and keeping her foot on the gas. That pressure told as the favourite smacked the last hurdle.
It gave Ali the daylight she needed to achieve the surprise of the championships thus far. She crossed the line with 0.05 to spare, equalling her lifetime best of 7.80.
Pearson finished runner up in 7.85, with Briton Tiffany Porter – runner up to the Australian in Istanbul two years ago – taking bronze in 7.86, 0.03 clear of France’s Cindy Billaud, with Olympic long jump bronze medallist Janay DeLoach Soukup of the USA fifth in 7.90.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF