Sally Pearson has announced her retirement.
Sally Pearson has announced her retirement.

Olympic legend retires: ‘My body’s not up to it anymore’

OLYMPICS hurdles champion Sally Pearson has walked away from the track.

Pearson, who turns 33 next month, confirmed on Tuesday that persistent injury problems have caused her to retire less than 12 months out from the Tokyo Olympics.

"I have prided myself on always being on the start line ready to win. I no longer believe I can achieve this. It is therefore with much regret that I have come to the conclusion that it is time to retire from this phase of my life and move on to the next," Pearson said.

"I love my sport and the friends I have made through it. I have had wonderful support from my family, my team, Athletics Australia, the AOC, my sponsors, the media and the fans - to them all I say thank you."

The 2012 Olympic champion revealed she had suffered six injuries this year already, including a torn quad and torn calf, which confirmed she couldn't put her body through a rigorous training program to get ready for next year's Games.

"It's been 16 years on the Australian team and my body is just not up to it," Pearson said.

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Pearson on the podium after winning gold at the London Olympics.
Pearson on the podium after winning gold at the London Olympics.

"(Add) another whole year to go of training for the Olympics to try and win gold, I have major doubts my body will make it and I don't know if I want to put myself through that again.

"2018 was horrible with my achilles and not being able to run at my home town Commonwealth Games was devastating.

"I don't think it's fair to myself and my body as well."

Pearson will go down as one of Australia's greatest ever athletes, winning eight major championship medals throughout her 16-year career.

Her second world title victory in London in 2017 epitomised Pearson in many ways given she'd fought back from two years of injuries and at the age of 30 had started coaching herself.

Unfortunately her body has been her worst enemy since and she was forced to pull out on the eve of last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games because of an achilles problem.

"It's a bit of a rollercoaster," Pearson said of making the decision to retire.

"The first five days was numb. I wanted to cry but I couldn't cry because I wasn't sure what I was on, what I was doing and whether it was right. Every day I kept questioning myself and every day I think about the injuries I might in a week's time or the next time I step onto the track.

Pearson kisses her gold medal. Picture: Brett Costello
Pearson kisses her gold medal. Picture: Brett Costello

"I said 'This has to be it. My body will not do this.'

"Mentally, if you can guarantee me a year with no injuries then I'd be happy to do it and no one can guarantee me that."

Australian Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll congratulated Pearson on her brilliant career.

"Sally has set standards that make her a role model for all aspiring athletes," Carroll said. "She did not accept compromises or settle for half-measures.

"These qualities made her an Olympic champion as a hurdler and an Australian champion as a hurdler and sprinter.

"Ultimately, those qualities also drove her to a decision to retire. While we are enormously disappointed that Sally will not be going to Tokyo 2020, we understand when an athlete honestly assesses the future and makes that difficult decision to call time."

After an extended break following her Commonwealth Games withdrawal, Pearson returned to training determined to get to the Tokyo Olympics given she'd been forced to miss the 2016 Rio Games because of a hamstring injury.

Pearson with legendary Olympian Dawn Fraser and Chloe Esposito at a One Year to Tokyo event last month. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Pearson with legendary Olympian Dawn Fraser and Chloe Esposito at a One Year to Tokyo event last month. Picture: Phil Hillyard

There were alarm bells at the national championships in Sydney in April when after winning the opening heat of the 100m hurdles she pulled out of the final citing exhaustion.

But everything seemed back on track in May when she competed in Japan at the World Relay Championships, playing a key role in getting Australia's 4x100m team into the final.

However, there were again concerns last month when Pearson was forced to pull out of several races in Europe after a "training mishap".

On July 4 she tweeted: "Europe, I am sorry. This entire week, all I have been doing is packing my bags in anticipation of my next international tour.

"Unfortunately, after weeks of intense sprinting and hurdles, I had a minor training mishap this morning."

It's understood the latest setback was the end of the line for the two-time world champion who knew then she wouldn't be defending her world title in Doha in September.

Pearson made her first Australian team at the age of 16 when she was selected in the 4x100m relay for the 2003 world championships in Paris.

Her career breakthrough came at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when she grabbed a surprise silver medal with her post-race reaction winning the hearts of Australia.

Pearson was at the peak of her powers through 2011 and 2012.

She ran the fourth fastest time in history, 12.28sec, to win her first world title in Daegu, South Korea.

The Gold Coast hurdler then set an Olympic record, 12.35sec, in winning gold at the 2012 London Games.

Pearson also won two Commonwealth titles and a world indoor title.

In 2011, along with Usain Bolt, she was awarded Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations while in 2014 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia.