Sally Pearson falls at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Sally Pearson falls at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Moment Pearson knew she’d jumped final hurdle

LYING on her bed, Sally Pearson pushed back tears from her cheeks and closed her laptop.

For the little girl who once count hurdles in her sleep and the Olympic champion who kept her podium dreams under her pillow, there's great irony in where Pearson made her toughest call.

A week before Tuesday's shock announcement to retire immediately from the track after 16-years at the elite level, Pearson held a 50-minute Skype session with her London-based psychologist.

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The 32-year-old speaks with her psychologist every three months. But this laptop chat was as good as over before it began.

It's just that Pearson, suffering from her fifth injury since March, didn't know it. Or more so, the driven competitor, didn't want to acknowledge it.

"I went into the psychology session upset and in tears and then I started talking and I wasn't good,'' Pearson said.

Sally Pearson’s legendary career. Picture: Boo Bailey
Sally Pearson’s legendary career. Picture: Boo Bailey

Hampered and hobbling since March with a run of injures that includes a quad tear, calf tear, hamstring strain, knee strain and then most recently an achilles injury, Pearson was 12 months out from the Tokyo Olympics and unable to take a step each morning without crippling pain in her foot.

So when the fearless champion, who won hurdles gold at every major championships including Olympics, World Championships, World Indoors, Commonwealth Games and World Cup, dialled London last Tuesday night it was in a ball of anger, frustration and aggression.

"That afternoon I was angry, grumpy and upset. I was walking the dogs and I was frustrated, but I didn't know why,'' Pearson said.

Sally Pearson after announcing her retirement. Picture: Tim Hunter
Sally Pearson after announcing her retirement. Picture: Tim Hunter

"I wasn't making the decision (to retire). I was just really cranky and really unhappy.

"And I was like, what is making me feel like this right now?

"Obviously it was the achilles injury and then I was speaking to my psychologist and she goes, 'What you're doing right now, you're trying to grab evidence to make a decision to retire.

"I said: "I think you're right.''

Pearson closed her laptop, turned to her husband Kieran and said: "I think I'm done."

And with that, the 11-year-old who joined her local Little Athletics club in Brisbane before trying hurdles for the first time two years later, hung up her spikes.

Sally Pearson celebrates after winning Commonwealth gold. Picture: AAP
Sally Pearson celebrates after winning Commonwealth gold. Picture: AAP

Pearson retires as one of Australia's greatest ever track stars and also our most endearing

Her famous "Oh my god, did you see me?' interview with Pat Welsh after collecting Olympic silver in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing games has attracted more than 300,000 views on YouTube click.

But it was when becoming the first Australian to win a gold medal on the track since Cathy Freeman in 2000, that Pearson solidified her standing in the nation's Hall of Fame for sport.

In driving rain at the London Olympics in 2012, Pearson reversed the placings of four years earlier to sneak home first in lane seven with a new Olympic record time of 12.35seconds.

Sally Pearson after winning Olympic gold.
Sally Pearson after winning Olympic gold.

At her press announcement, Pearson said gold in London represents the pinnacle of her career, but added her gold at the 2017 world titles, after missing the Rio Olympics with a torn hamstring, was just as special.

"For me, that was my most proudest moment, for me as an athlete and coach because I was coaching myself. The London Olympics, though will always take my heart," Pearson said.

"It is going to be hard to find something that's going to excite me as much as my sport did and as much as my competing did for me because it was who I was and I enjoyed every minute of it.

"And I can look forward to not being afraid to get out of bed and put my feet down on the ground without any pain.''