With injury scuppering plans of retaining her world outdoor 100m hurdles crown in Moscow last summer, Australia’s Sally Pearson is seeking a victorious return to the top of the medals podium this weekend.
The 27-year-old – who spent much of 2013 nursing two serious hamstring tears – today spoke at the official press conference for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, where she revealed her intention to successfully defend her 60m hurdles title.
“I think everyone plans to win their event – I want to win and I’m in good shape to do that,” she insisted.
“The hurdles is very unpredictable but I hope to be the best on the day.”
The Olympic champion heads the 2014 world list with a 7.79 clocking from the ISTAF meeting in Berlin five days ago and despite speaking confidently on her title defence, Pearson highlighted USA’s long-jumper-turned-hurdler Janay DeLoach Soukup as one of her biggest rival for the gold medal.
Having sped to a stunning 7.73 area record en route to her win in Istanbul at this event two years ago, the 2011 world champion did not dismiss the possibility of her eclipsing the 7.68 world indoor record held by Sweden’s Susanna Kallur.
“I felt I could have gone a lot faster in Berlin and now I’m in better shape,” she explained.
“The world record’s possible but I’m not sure if I’m quite in the shape to do that now. Coming off the back of the Australian season is quite tiring with what I’ve raced already and the times I’ve run but it could be possible.”
Her competitive campaign Down Under saw Pearson register 11.24 and 23.18 over 100m and 200m respectively before scorching to world-leading 12.59 in the 100m hurdles last month in Perth, her fastest ever season opener in her specialist event.
“Training’s been going well and to run 12.59 in my first race and then 7.79 in the heats in Berlin was great,” she said.
“Berlin wasn’t the perfect race – I’d only been working on my technique for a few weeks and I’ve only done the three indoor hurdles races.
“There’s definitely more to improve on, especially my flight time over the hurdles but that comes with practice and so I hope to go a lot faster in Sunday’s final – I’m doing everything in my power to stay strong and healthy.”
Following her injury-ravaged 2013 campaign, Pearson switched coaches to work with long-time training partner Antony Drinkwater-Newman to ensure injury would not damage her golden aspirations again.
“The thing that was the hardest last year was getting over two hamstring tears in eight weeks in order to get ready for the Worlds (in Moscow, where she won the silver medal),” Pearson said.
“It was a huge rollercoaster but I kept going and I knew I could make the podium – it was all about who was the best on the day and I gave it everything I could and thankfully got a medal.
“I changed coaches at the end of last year to focus on our goal of strengthening my hamstrings before getting into any hurdling and speed-work.”
Now evidently fully recovered and almost back to her best, Pearson – who may have the USA’s two-time champion Lolo Jones’ 7.72 championship record in her sights – has, at last, the opportunity to grab her golden redemption.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF