By Shane Thomas
While Australia often show up to the Olympics with hopes of finishing high in the medal table, it's not often that they look to the track for their successes. But in Sally Pearson, the 100 metre hurdler, they have arguably the most likely gold medal that we'll see in the Olympic Stadium.
Pearson first came to the attention of the Australian - and wider - public after surprisingly winning the silver medal in the 100 metres at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her post-race interview (one of the most memorable sporting interviews one could wish to see) showed that she was more surprised than anyone.
Well, it's safe to say that Pearson is a surprise to the sprinting world no longer. She was an absolute star in 2011, winning gold at the World Championships in a time of 12:28, the fourth fastest time in the history of the event, smashing the Oceanic and Australian records.
Pearson only lost one race last year, and that was only due to her falling after colliding with a hurdle. Her pre-eminence was absolute, and she was in a field of one in the running for IAAF Female Athlete of the Year award.
After slicing through the competition in 2011, she has been similarly dominant in 2012. But it would be remiss to ignore that a few hours before writing this, she suffered her first defeat of the year in London, beaten by an impressive run from the American, Kellie Wells.
So it's clear not to hang the gold medal around Pearson's neck just yet, and her encounter with Wells could light up the track in August. However, Pearson will remain favourite, and for good reason. While Wells is the faster athlete on the flat 100 metres, Pearson has the superior technique over the high hurdles, not to mention the pedigree.
And Pearson's homespun persona; raised by a single mother, who worked two jobs to support young Sally's track career, and her unabashed reactions to victory have endeared her to many track & field fans. The Australian whippet is someone who seems to be fully cognisant of just how lucky she is to get to perform her hobby for a living. A little girl in spikes. A little girl who just may prove to be the best in the world in a few weeks time.
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