Brisbane, AustraliaWhen World Athlete of the Year Sally Pearson said this week she was “in quicker shape this year than I was before the World championships,” it was tempting to think she was talking herself, and today’s the Brisbane Track Classic (14), up a little bit.
After all, it was the World 100m Hurdles champion’s first competition of 2012 and she was coming off a minor injury scare in a handicap race on a grass track just before Christmas. Even her decision to add the individual flat 100 metres to relay duties with the Australian 4x100 squad seemed a touch ambitious.
Well, if we didn’t know by now, Pearson took just 11.25 seconds to remind us that, when it comes to her form, she is always serious. In an ominous warning to anyone else with Olympic 100 metres Hurdles gold medal ambitions, she started the London 2012 Olympic year pretty well where she left off the Daegu 2011 World Championships year.
Pearson’s 11.25 put her over two metres clear of Melissa Breen (11.51) and Jessica Knox (11.66).
In 2011, Pearson ran 11.35 in the Brisbane meeting (which was four weeks later in the year) and took almost the whole domestic season to run as fast as she did in still (wind +0.1) conditions in her first 100 of 2012. Her best time in the last Australian season was 11.20 at the end of March; in Rieti, just after the World championships, she ran 11.24.
“I knew I was in good shape and I really wanted to run faster than my 11.35 last year and I did,” Pearson said after the race.
“After the World championships I came home in peak performance and that really helps starting off a new season.”
As a Daegu World champion Pearson is an automatic nomination to the Australian Olympic team. Not that she needs one, but her time was an Olympic A-qualifying standard for the flat 100, the only one on a night that was a fairly subdued opening to the major part of the Australian domestic season.
Pearson and her teammates did not have similar good fortune in their quest to cement the women’s relay in the top 16 teams to qualify for London. Looking for something close to the 43.69 sec they ran in Japan last year, Pearson and colleagues Melissa Breen, Hayley Butler and Charlotte Van Veenendal instead had to settle for a 44.01.
“We were very disappointed about the time,” Pearson said after the relay. “We are all in good shape, so we don't understand. We are still top 16, but (an Olympic place is) not guaranteed.”
Pearson will again race over 100 metres in Adelaide on 28 January and her season’s hurdles debut is scheduled for Perth two weeks later. These two meetings are the first of the four comprising this year’s Australian Athletics Tour, the others being Sydney on 18 February and the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Melbourne on 3 March.
Another World Hurdles champion – dual 400 metres Hurdles gold medallist Jana Pittman – returned to national competition in Brisbane. After four weeks of club competition before Christmas, Pittman took on national 400m Hurdles champion Lauren Boden over 300 metres, with Boden winning, 38.20 to 39.02.
Pittman and Boden also both ran in the Australian women’s 4x400 metres relay, which defeated an Australian junior team in 3:34.12. Again, this was not enough to improve the prospects of qualifying for London.
The Australian men’s squads also had hit-outs, the 4x100 running 39.68 to finish ahead of an Australia ‘B’ team and the 4x400 running 3:05.84 to defeat a New Zealand team by almost four seconds.
Kelly Hetherington improved almost half a second on her previous best in taking the women’s 800 metres in 2:02.48 almost two seconds clear of Caitlin Pincott and former national champion Katherine Katsenavakis.
Several athletes also bettered World Junior championships qualifying standards at the meeting, including high jumper Brandon Starc and sprinters Benjamin Jaworski and Nicholas Hough.
On the field, there was a surprise defeat for 2011 US Javelin Throw champion Mike Hazle. Young Tasmanian Hamish Peacock threw 77.34 metres, relegating Hazle to third place with 74.05.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
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