Australian Olympic hurdles champion Sally Pearson withdrew from the Rio games yesterday, saying she was devastated she had injured her hamstring during training and could not compete.
Pearson, Australia’s top athlete who won 100 metres hurdles gold at London in 2012, told the Nine Network she did not want to risk a career-ending injury by going to Brazil.
“The risk of going to compete at the Olympics could do major damage to my hamstring, and there’d be no opportunity to come back and try to go to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in two years’ time,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking and devastating that I can’t be in Rio, as the Olympic champion, and run at 100 percent and be proud to represent my country, it’s just not going to happen this year—my body won’t allow it,” Pearson added.
In confirming earlier reports that she would miss the Games, Pearson said the new injury had come “out of the blue” and at a time when she was training well. She said her heart sank when she felt “two sort of squeezes in my hamstring” when she went over two hurdles during training on Monday.
“It was very disappointing, but I thought it was just a hamstring tear, probably take me a couple of weeks and I’ll be alright,” she said. “But, we went and got scans, and it showed it was actually a tendon tear. Any tendon in the body takes a long time to recover.”
The 29-year-old only returned to competition in June after spending a year on the sidelines following a fall that shattered her wrist, which affected the technique she uses at the start of a race.
But her return did not go to plan, with Pearson trailing in after pacesetting Americans in three races in Europe.
Earlier this month she pulled out of her last scheduled race in Stockholm to return to her Gold Coast base and focus on training for Rio.
In a blog post on June 18, Pearson reflected on the “broken bones, torn calf, degenerative achilles and hammy problems” that have plagued her over the past year.
“What brings athletes back even after we get pushed down time and time again from disappointment?” she wrote. “For me, it’s the excitement, the fun and the pure determination that I can overcome the setbacks and still deliver my best.”
But Pearson also admitted she was struggling to regain fitness.
“I have now been home for six days. I have left nothing in the tank on my return,” she said. “Training has been intensely hard and I am exhausted from it but at this stage I have absolutely no other choice if I am going to be competitive in Rio. I have just less than nine weeks until I compete and I am going to do everything in my power to be the best athlete I can be while representing my country in the biggest sporting event in the world.”
The Australian Olympic team’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller had praised her courage earlier in the day.
“She’s fought so hard over the last year,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted her as saying in Perth. “It is just such a shame for a fantastic champion, a fantastic fighter and if she doesn’t run in Rio I’ll be very, very sad for Sally and the team.”
Pearson, who also won hurdles silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and gold at the 2011 Daegu Athletics World Championships, is the Australian track and field team captain and was due to race her opening Olympic heat on August 16.
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