STARS ARRIVES: Long jumper Mitchell Watt and hurdler Sally Pearson with WA Tourism Minister Kim Hames at the WA Athletics Centre.
Pearson says Jana Rawlinson's return great for Australian athletics
By Michael Washbourne
March 30, 2011
OLYMPIC silver medallist Sally Pearson says the return of world champion hurdler Jana Rawlinson in Perth this week has buoyed the Australian athletics fraternity.
Rawlinson, 28, is set to compete in her first race since mid-2009 when she takes to the track at the Perth Track Classic at the WA Athletics Stadium on Thursday and Friday.
It will also be her first race on home soil since winning a gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Rawlinson has battled a number of serious foot injuries since claiming her second world crown in Osaka in 2007 and all eyes will be on her as she begins her quest to qualify for next year’s London Olympics.
Pearson, who finished second in the 100m hurdles at the Beijing Games in 2008, said Rawlinson’s return was a major boost for the local athletics scene.
“She is one of our best Australian athletes, she’s a two-time world champion and we don’t have many of them, especially in athletics,” Pearson said.
“It’s really great to see someone who can be such a great role model for our younger athletes.
“I have no idea (how she will go). I’m just excited to see how her on the blocks and I think it’s just exciting for her to be out there on the track racing again.”
Pearson, meanwhile, will compete in his first hurdles event since last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi when she races on Thursday night.
The 24-year-old Queenslander decided two weeks ago to run in the 100m hurdles in Perth after convincing herself she was over the back problems that have troubled her in previous years.
Perth’s weather and the athlete-friendly design of WA’s new stadium were also major factors in her decision to compete in her pet event.
“It will show us how quickly it takes me to get back into the swing of things with hurdles and that will help for future training and competitions along the way,” Pearson said.
“Obviously hurdles is still my pet event and I love it. I would like to be able to do it all the time, every single day of the year, but it does impact on my back.
“But my back has been really strong of late and I’ve had no setbacks or interruptions this whole season so we decided to give it a go.”
Pearson, who will also run in the 100m and 200m events, will complete a sprint-based warm-up prior to her hurdles race to minimise the chance of injury.
Athletes from all disciplines will be vying for the $10,000 bonus cheque at the meet, which is the final leg of five-stage tour around the country.
World championships bronze medallist Mitchell Watt, who shares a healthy rivalry with compatriot Fabrice Lapierre, is a big chance to claim that prize and is looking to break Jai Taurima’s Australian record of 8.49m.
“At the start of the season I wasn’t really thinking about that, just because I was more focused on my groin (injury) and getting the distances out there,” Watt said.
“I’ve got a pretty big lead on that prize now so hopefully I’ll keep it.
“I’ve had a couple of jumps around 8.30m this season, but I’ve also had one jump under 8.00m.
“I think once I start jumping 8.30m or 8.40m each week, that’s when the big ones will come.”