Sally Pearson cruises through the opening round of the 100m at the Australian championships in Melbourne (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 15 April 2011 – Melbourne, Australia

Pearson’s triple ambitions get underway in Melbourne – Australian champs, Day 1

Melbourne, AustraliaWhen the opposition doesn’t get the competitive juices stewing, you can always look to history for motivation.

That’s what Sally Pearson is doing as she contemplates a rare treble in the 89th Australian championships, which are also the selection trials for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea, 27 August - 4 September.

No disrespect to her opponents, but Pearson has not been pushed as she has dominated the Australian domestic sprint scene this season. Even the introduction of international competition from US sprinter Michele ‘Miki’ Barber did not faze her.

So she came to Melbourne, to the last meeting at the city’s historic venue at Olympic Park, determined to create a bit of history by winning a treble in the 100 and 200m and the 100m Hurdles. Despite a little niggle in her knee leading into the titles, that is just what she intends to do.

Pearson got her quest under way with her easiest day of the three. She won her heat of the 100m in 11.69 in cool conditions into a 1.3 metres per second wind.

“I felt like I hadn’t run for two days,” Pearson said, reflecting her taper, “so it was nice to blow the cobwebs out.”

Pearson had a metre to spare over anyone else, defending champion Melissa Breen and Charlotte van Veenendal both running 11.80 to win their heats.

The last woman to take out an individual treble at the same titles was Pam Kilborn, who did so in the 80m Hurdles, 100m Hurdles and Pentathlon in 1968 (she also won the 80m Hurdles, Long Jump and Pentathlon in 1963).

Pearson admitted the treble looked like being “off the agenda” earlier this week and that she still might wait until the last minute to decide. But there is no doubting the Beijing hurdles silver medallist’s desire.

“I wasn’t motivated by the thought of coming here,” she said, “I needed something to excite me, and that’s doing all three.”

Pearson’s task gets harder by the day from now on. Saturday brings the semi-finals and final of the 100m, then Sunday sees the 200m heats followed 75 minutes later by the hurdles preliminaries. She then has another 75 minute break before the 200m final and, finally, 40 minutes to the hurdles final.

That final follows an historic tribute to Olympic Park. Pearson may add a post-script.

Lewis chasing 400m/800m double

Another woman with multiple titles on her mind is Tamsyn Lewis. The 2008 World indoor champion at 800m got her campaign under way with heat wins in the 800m and 400m. Should Lewis win both titles she will take her overall tally of national titles to 17, equal with Pam Ryan in second place on the women’s all-time list behind 1984 Olympic Shot Put bronze medallist Gael Mulhall’s 20.

Lewis’s 2:05.75 was narrowly the fastest of the women’s 800 round and she looks to have an edge in the final. Two seconds covered the six automatic qualifiers.

Three titles were decided on the first night. Youcef Abdi, sixth in the Beijing Olympic final, won his third national title in the 3000m Steeplechase in succession (and fourth overall) in a time of 8:38.13.

Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist (representing Samoa), Margaret Satupai, won the women’s Shot Put with a toss of 15.86m. As a long-time competitor for an Australian club, she is eligible for the national title – her first.

Also taking his first national title was Delhi 2010 Hammer Throw representative Tim Driesen who produced a timely personal best of 68.63m to defeat reigning title-holder Simon Wardhaugh.

The first day also saw the qualifying competition in one of the most eagerly-awaited events – the men’s Long Jump. After seven mediocre jumps on Australian soil, world indoor champion Fabrice Lapierre finally produced a decent one, reaching 7.76m to qualify for the final on Sunday.

Mitchell Watt, bronze medallist at both the World indoor and outdoor championships in the past two years, was comfortably through on his first jump, producing a 7.78m despite stuttering noticeably into the take-off board.

Top qualifier was 2006 World junior champion Robbie Crowther, who produced a 7.94m on his first jump.

Defending champion Lachlan Renshaw won his heat of the men’s 800 comfortably enough in 1:49.99. Renshaw has done several training stints with the Oregon Track Club. Ironically, one of his opponents in the final is Ryan Foster, the Tasmanian athlete who finished third in last year’s NCAA indoor championships for Penn State University.

Len Johnson for the IAAF

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