THIS was one fairy tale comeback that has taken an unexpected twist.
A hamstring tear has ripped apart Sally Pearson’s chance to defend her 100-metre hurdles Olympic gold in Rio.
But the way Pearson publicly handled the blow is exactly what makes her both inspiring and electrifying.
Focused on her next goal with a look that ensured she would give her all to return at her best – nothing less.
When Pearson made her official withdrawal from Rio on Thursday, she was clear there were more chapters in this now-prolonged return that stemmed from a broken wrist a year ago.
Pearson, who admitted she was still “numb” from the shock of the injury, had purpose. She will return fitter, stronger and faster, flagging next year’s world championships and the 2018 Commonwealth Games as major goals.
For an outsider watching her tale unfold, Pearson is a role model for how hard work and determination can create new standards of what is possible.
Key to this is knowing your limitations.
Pearson could compete. There are six weeks before the Games. But she knows she will not be at her best, feels she would be making up numbers, and could risk a more severe injury.
This is gutsy from an athlete for whom the Olympic stage means so much.
"This is what I do, as a job, this is who I am. I'm not just going to give up because I have an injury," Pearson told media on Thursday. “...It's unfortunate, these are the down times, but the highs always make up for it."
Resilience is a word bandied about so much now that it has lost an edge.
Time to really watch and learn. There is something seemingly magical about Pearson racing on the big stage in such a technically precise event.
Pearson captured national attention with her unexpected Olympic silver medal for 100m hurdles in the 2008 Beijing Games. American favourite Lolo Jones tripped on the ninth hurdle and consequently sparked a photo finish for minor medals. Pearson, then Sally McLellan, jumped up and down the track in jubilation while constantly double-checking the number two next to her name on the Bird’s Nest big screen.
This was the stuff you stay up late to watch and, like this columnist, the stuff you phone everyone you know in the middle of the night to make sure they had not missed it.
Just like when Pearson won Commonwealth Games gold for 100m hurdles in 2010, days after crossing the line first in the 100m sprint final only to be denied the gold after a protest.
And just like the 2012 London Games when Pearson arrived in stellar form on a string of wins against her toughest rivals, including defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper. Pearson powered to gold in Olympic record time. Harper, the American, was clocked the fastest losing time ever.
Rio will really miss Pearson on the track. We will really miss Pearson on the track.
Stay tuned. We have to wait a little longer for this fairy tale comeback. Be assured Pearson will serve up a comeback worth waiting for.
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