Sally Pearson

Gold medal winner, Australia's first World Athlete of the Year, sprint hurdles star

Sally Pearson is Australia's finest sprinter/hurdler. This is reflected in the fact that she won sport's top international honour - IAAF Best Female Athlete in the World 2011 - a first for any Australian athlete, and then won the Gold medal and set a new Olympic record in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Since her  silver medal-winning sprint in Beijing in 2008, Sally has continued to break and set records. In 2011 she won 10 of her 11 competitions and set seven of the year's fastest times, including the fastest 100 metres hurdles time for nearly two decades (12.28 seconds).

At the 2011 Daegu World Championship in South Korea she took out the women's hurdles event. Winning the opening heat in 12.53 seconds, Sally then won her semi in 12.36, setting Australian and Oceania area records. She broke her own record winning the gold in 12.28 seconds, tying for the seventh-fastest result of all time, and achieving a new World Championship record.

She capped the triumphant campaign with her selection as the 2011 IAAF female athlete of the year. She becomes the first athlete from Oceania to be honoured as such by the IAAF since the awards were introduced in 1988. She was a World Youth champion in 2003.

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Sally participated in swimming and gymnastics while growing up in Sydney and began focusing on track and field at around age 11, after moving to Queensland. She was soon noticed by Sharon Hannan, who remains her coach.

Sally Pearson broke through on the international level by winning the 100-metre hurdles at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada. The same year, at age 16, she ran on Australia's 4 x 100-metre relay team at the Paris World Championships.

In 2004 she was third in the 100, fourth in the 100 hurdles and competed on Australia's fifth-place 4 x 100-metre relay team at the World Junior championships in Grosseto, Italy.

Sally made her individual World Championship debut in 2007, at age 20. She reached the semifinals of both the straight 100 and the 100-metre hurdles, and again ran in the 4 x 100-metre relay. She reached the World Championship 100 hurdles final in 2009, despite battling season-long back trouble, and placed fifth.

In 2008, Pearson - then still using the name McLellan - was part of a tight group that crossed the finish line a tenth of a second behind 100 hurdles gold medalist Dawn Harper. It took a photo finish to sort out the remaining medalists, after which Pearson was awarded the silver and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep the bronze, with both runners clocked in 12.64 seconds.

Pearson has also competed in two Commonwealth Games. She earned a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 relay in 2006, then won gold with the 100-metre hurdles in 2010. She also ran on Australia's fourth-place 4 x 400-metre relay team.