Last year, Sally Pearson was close to unbeatable in the 100m Hurdles, but after picking up an early-season injury in May this year, Australia’s Olympic champion has found herself in a race against time to be fit for the defence of her World title.
Pearson was one of the star performers in Daegu two years ago, breaking the championship record with her sparkling 12.28 run. She came close to that time at last year’s Olympics, taking gold in 12.35.
However, her season’s best of 12.65 makes her just the sixth-fastest hurdler on the entry list for Moscow.
She can take some confidence from the fact that she ran that time in her last race before the World Championships, and she also crossed the line in first place, having been soundly beaten in her previous four races, her longest run of consecutive losses since 2008.
Pearson’s task is also made harder by the small issue of having to compete against the fourth-fastest woman in history.
USA’s Brianna Rollins has made the biggest breakthrough in 2013. After winning the US collegiate (NCAA) title in a lifetime best of 12.39, she went even quicker to win the US title, breaking the long-standing American record with 12.26.
Just 0.05 shy of the World record, it was the fastest time in the world since 1992. And the 21-year-old is yet to lose a race this year, indoors or out.
Rollins will be one of four US sprint hurdlers in Moscow as 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson gets a wildcard entry after winning the 2012 Diamond Race in the event.
Harper, the 2011 World Championships bronze medallist, has won her past six races and currently leads the 2013 Diamond Race after winning in Doha, Rome, Birmingham and Lausanne. Her 12.53 from Lausanne equalled her fastest ever time ahead of a major championships.
The other sprint hurdlers on the US team are Queen Harrison and Nia Ali, who both dipped under 12.50 to make it on to the podium at the US Championships, smashing their personal bests in the process with respective times of 12.43 and 12.48.
Harrison reached the semifinals at the last World Championships, but in the 400m Hurdles. Meanwhile, Ali is joined on the US team by one of her coaches, Ryan Wilson, who will compete in the 110m Hurdles.
Behind the US quartet, the next-fastest entrant is France’s Cindy Billaud, who smashed her best to win the French title in a European-leading 12.59, but she has had injury problems in recent weeks.
Two years ago in Daegu, Britain’s Tiffany Porter looked to be on course for a medal before hitting one of the final hurdles and finishing fourth. The 25-year-old will be fired up to make amends.
Other contenders include Jamaican champion Danielle Williams and Canada’s Angela Whyte, who will be making her sixth appearance at the World Championships.
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Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF