World champion Pearson sizzles on a wet night
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -World champion Sally Pearson has declared her Olympic intentions early, running the fastest 100-meter hurdles ever on Australian soil on a drizzly Saturday night in Melbourne.
Pearson won 19 hurdles races in a row last year, including her world championship win at Daegu, South Korea, before she tumbled over a hurdle at Brussels in her last race of the season. She was voted the IAAF's female World Athlete of the Year.
Three races into her 2012 season, Pearson flew out of the blocks and pulled away from the field to win in 12.49 seconds at the Australian Olympic trials, her fourth-fastest time. American Yvette Lewis was second in 13.22.
Given the cool, damp conditions and how she was feeling during the race, the time shocked the 25-year-old Australian runner five months before the first of the 100-meter hurdles heats begin on Aug. 6 at the London Olympics.
"I thought I was going really badly actually,'' she said after the race. "I got halfway through the race and I thought, 'Oh no, my rhythm is really off ... this could be a 12.9.' But I came back and it was so much better than I thought it was going to be. Got to the finish line with an amazing time.
"It's just really fantastic. And it's really exciting. But at the same time I have to keep grounded. I have to focus on the London Olympics, that's still a fair way to go. A lot more training to go.''
In other events, world record-holder David Rushida of Kenya won the 800 meters in 1 minute, 44.33 from Australian Jeff Riseley, who finished in 1:45.62.
Henry Frayne won the long jump in 8.09 meters, edging 2010 world indoor champion Fabrice Lapierre (8.00), to complete a double in the horizontal jumps after his win in qualifying-standard win in the triple jump on Friday night. Jarrod Bannister won the javelin at 82.97 meters and will be on the initial Australian Olympic squad announced on Tuesday.
It rained all day Saturday in Melbourne, part of a weather system that is drenching southeastern Australia, but it cleared to a light drizzle when Pearson lined up for the start of the hurdles. She was the main draw at the IAAF's Melbourne Track Classic, doubling as the national Olympic trials, with more than 3,000 fans ignoring the wet to witness what will be Pearson's last meet in Australia before London 2012.
Hundreds of people hung over the advertising hoardings along the straight, only a few meters from the outside lane, to get a close-up view of Australia's best chance for a track gold in London. She bounded halfway back up the track, slapping hands with fans and celebrating her time.
"At the moment I'm in good shape and I'm loving it,'' Pearson said, "and I'm just going to look after myself. That's all I can do.''
Her future plans revolve more around medals than times.
"Just keep thinking of the gold medal. As long as I win it, I don't care,'' she said. "The bonus is a time. I've got to win it first.''
She later won the 200 in a personal best 23.02 and said she's well set up for the World Indoors at Istanbul next weekend, where she's aiming for a time of 7.70 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles.
After that, she'll head back to her home base on the Gold Coast to train before starting her European season at Oslo in June.