Sally Pearson competing at the Queensland International Track Classic last week.
Sally Pearson competing at the Queensland International Track Classic last week.

No flag but a main Pearson role likely

EVEN if she'd been from Goulburn or Geelong, Sally Pearson would have been the best choice to lead Australia's athletes into the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

That she has lived for most her life a few kilometres from Carrara Stadium, made selecting Pearson as Australia's flag bearer at Wednesday night's opening ceremony seem an almost irresistible choice.

The decision to hand the honour to Hockeyroos skipper Mark Knowles now surely increases expectations Pearson will be handed a significant role in the ceremony.

After all, the moment Cathy Freeman lit the flame at the 2000 Olympics opening ceremony burns brightly in the memory of most Aussies.

 

Sally Pearson competing at the Queensland International Track Classic last week.
Sally Pearson competing at the Queensland International Track Classic last week.

But how many people remember that Andrew Gaze led the athletes into the stadium?

To be champion of Pearson in this instance is not to be a detractor of the qualities of Mark Knowles, who has accomplishments in hockey stretching back to an Olympic gold medal in 2004.

Knowles even ticks the "Queenslander'' box for these made-in-Queensland Games, being from Rockhampton.

One of the qualities team bosses wanted was for their leader of the 472-member troop to have had a feel for the Commonwealth Games.

Knowles and Pearson are both about to start a fourth Commonwealth Games, having both won a medal at the previous three.

Pearson celebrates after taking gold at the Olympics in 2012.
Pearson celebrates after taking gold at the Olympics in 2012.

Knowles shapes as a cleanskin, certainly having had nothing like the contentious week at the 2014 Commonwealth Games which Pearson did.

Team head athletics coach Eric Hollingsworth was sent home by Australian Games officials after he publicly accused Pearson of setting a bad example to younger teammates by not appearing at a pre-Games camp.

Hollingsworth had a falling-out with Pearson six months before the Glasgow Games and she was docked Athletics Australia funding when she did not attend the camp as captain. A few days later, Pearson ran through her own tunnel of steely concentration to defend her Commonwealth 100m hurdles title.

Pearson has been battling an achilles problem. Pics Adam Head
Pearson has been battling an achilles problem. Pics Adam Head

Pearson professed in February a willingness to undertake whatever role at her home-city Games she was asked, even if it did not extend beyond running a leg of the Queen's Baton relay, as she is in Southport this morning.

But at a time when Australians are asking a lot of their sportspeople, the 31-year-old Gold Coaster has a track record of tenacity in adversity, utter dedication and fulfilled ambition in this most international of sports.

Pearson's second world title last year came after she hired herself as coach, a rare thing in modern elite sport, and willed herself back to the frontline of her 100m hurdles event after a distressing 2015 race fall in which she badly broke her wrist.

Pearson knows how to win.
Pearson knows how to win.

Pearson, born in Sydney before her mother moved with her to Queensland when she was aged eight, had to catch buses to and from training as a teenager.

Her single mum, Anne, worked multiple jobs, as did Sally soon after leaving school to better fund her athletics.

When the visiting English athlete Alison Curbishley gifted a pair of running shoes to the likely, 14-year-old Gold Coast prospect, it was like giving a shiny new guitar to an ambitious garage band musician.

Pearson fell heavily in her first Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles final in Melbourne, embarrassing a young woman at 19 on her biggest stage to that date.

The steely competitor delivered in full on her potential in 2012 when she seized her Olympic title in London.

Pearson said on Saturday that she hoped Australians would take the chance to have a good, hard look at her sport during the Games, for the betterment of athletics in this country.

It was something not a lot of me-first sportspeople would think to say.



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