Pearson's journey started at 16 in Paris

John Salvado, NZ Newswire August 8, 2012, 8:58 am

Sally Pearson has been on the road to Olympic gold ever since she went to the 2003 world athletics championships in Paris as a wide-eyed relay runner.

For the then 16-year-old, it was a life-changing experience.

Pearson loved every bit of what went on at the pointy end of her chosen sport.

Countless athletes have dreamed the dream.

But very few have lived it in such an uncompromising way.

Pearson's one and only coach Sharon Hannan says Pearson never ever takes short cuts at training.

Her high-school sweetheart and now husband Kieran Pearson remarks in wonder at the discipline she shows in her diet.

By his reckoning, Kieran dropped plenty of kilograms while travelling the European circuit with Sally last summer.

Once shy in the spotlight, the 25-year-old from the Gold Coast now fulfils her many responsibilities to the media and sponsors with the utmost professionalism.

At times during this year's domestic season, she almost seemed to be track and field in Australia, so keen was the national body to push her front and centre at every opportunity.

It is all part of what makes Pearson one of the most bankable commodities in world track and field.

The successes have been many.

Gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2003 world youth championships.

Bronze in the 100m at the 2004 world junior championships.

A first of five national 100m and 100m hurdles doubles in 2005.

Surprise silver at the Beijing Olympics behind American Dawn Harper - one of seven women left floundering in her wake on Wednesday night.

Gold at last year's world championships in 12.28 seconds - a time that moved her to fourth on the world all-time list.

That victory saw her voted the IAAF's female world athlete of the year, sharing the stage with Usain Bolt at a gala function in Monte Carlo.

And now the ultimate - Olympic gold in London on Tuesday after she lunged at the line to edge out defending champion Dawn Harper by two hundredths of a second in a photo finish.

There have - inevitably - been setbacks too.

A medal went begging for Pearson at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne when she crashed into the final hurdle.

A back injury cruelled her 2009 world championships campaign in Berlin, although she ran through the pain to finish a gallant fifth.

And a controversial false start denied her gold in the flat 100m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, making victory in the 100m hurdles a few days later even sweeter.

They were all learning experiences on the road she started travelling nine years ago in Paris.

A road which reached its most magnificent destination yet on an unforgettable night at the London Olympic Stadium.

Not that the journey is anywhere near over.

Bolt often talks about the need to keep winning titles if he is to be legitimately considered a legend of his sport.

It's not the sort of flamboyant language which comes naturally to Pearson.

But don't mistake that for a lack of ambition.

Winning a second world title next year in Moscow is the next big aim.

Becoming the first Australian since Shirley Strickland (80m hurdles in 1952 and 1956) to successfully defend an Olympic track and field title has a nice ring to it.

And it's hard to imagine her leaving the sport before the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games roll around in her home town.

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