BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Sally Pearson will not defend her Olympic hurdles title in Rio de Janeiro after tearing a tendon in her hamstring, yet another setback in a year beset by injuries.
Pearson, the 100-meter hurdles Olympic gold medalist in London four years ago and silver medalist at Beijing in 2008, told Australia’s Channel Nine news Wednesday that she was shocked at the extent of the training injury and didn’t have enough time to recover fully ahead of the Aug. 5-21 Olympics.
“I’m disappointed – I’m gutted,” she said. “It’s the biggest sporting event in the world that I’m missing out on. I can’t be part of it, and it’s upsetting.”
The 29-year-old Pearson missed 12 months of competition after breaking her wrist in a racing accident, and complained earlier in the month that her preparations had been hampered by a “niggly hamstring.”
She only returned to competition on June 5, a year and a day after crashing over a hurdle at a Diamond League meet in Rome and needing surgery. She had three races in Europe before returning to Australia to work on her speed, skipping a scheduled run in Stockholm.
Australia’s Olympic team leader Kitty Chiller said Pearson’s absence was “devastating for us and the team.”
“It was always an uphill battle for Sally to get back to her best form in Rio,” Chiller told a news conference in Perth, Western Australia before Pearson confirmed her withdrawal. “If anyone was going to do that, she would have done it because she’s such a huge fighter.”
On June 18, Pearson posted a fitness update on her website, writing how she’d arrived in Birmingham “full of hope and excitement” but was disappointed with her times “and also disappointed that my body was letting me down.”
“This has been a big year, broken bones, torn calf, degenerative Achilles and hammy problems and that’s just with me. Sometimes I wonder why I still continue to do this sport.”
Pearson had strapping on her left hamstring when she raced in Birmingham, and trailed home in seventh place in 13.25 seconds – almost a second slower than her personal best and a time she described as “disgusting.”
But in the week leading up to Monday’s training mishap, the 2011 world champion said she’d felt in her best shape in a year, and was ready to overcome all the setbacks.
“Unfortunately on Monday, my body just didn’t agree with me this time,” she said. “It couldn’t push that little extra bit to the edge. I just tumbled over the edge unfortunately this time, and I tore my hamstring.”
Pearson said she couldn’t risk long-term damage, and a fierce competitive streak prevented her from concealing the injury in the hope of just being able to contest the heats in Rio.
“If I pushed it too early … I could do some serious injury and make it 100 times worse, and maybe not come back from it,” she said in the TV interview. “I could have gone to the Olympics and still competed … (but) I go there for 100 percent effort and I wouldn’t be able to give that effort that I would like to bring.”
Pearson said she planned to take time off and wanted to return in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, being staged near her home on Australia’s Gold Coast