A huge week of Australian athletics is set to get even bigger, with Olympic champion Sally Pearson one of eight athletes taking to the field of play at the Golden Grand Prix in Japan.
ATHLETICS: A huge week of Australian athletics is set to get even bigger this Sunday 10 May, with Olympic champion Sally Pearson (Qld) one of eight athletes taking to the field of play at the Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki (JPN).
Less than a fortnight away from Round 1 of the IAAF Diamond League in Doha (QAT), Pearson is excited about returning to the competition arena after a solid block of tough hurdles training and witnessing the success of her fellow Australian Flame athletes across the globe.
"It's been a fantastic week of athletics so far and I'm glad to be getting involved in it. The World Relays was great to watch and we also saw a few individual qualifiers as well from the likes of Fabrice (Lapierre) in the long jump and Ben St Lawrence, Maddie (Heiner) and Emily (Brichacek) in the U.S," Pearson said.
"They can all make the (IAAF World Championships) team now and I just want to see it grow as much as possible. It's nice to have a big squad of Australians around you, experiencing the elite world of athletics. I am really proud to be captain and it's going to be a great journey for us all this year."
Pearson is determined to once again find the form that saw her win her sixth national hurdles crown at the Australian Athletics Championships in April. Elated with the result at the time, she looks back on the performance confident in the knowledge that her efforts in training under Ash Mahoney are beginning to come to fruition.
"The way I ran at Nationals was a relief more than anything. I've been trying to change my race a bit, especially my start, working toward getting it back to the good old days in 2011 and 2012 where I was the best starter in the world, and (until Brisbane) my start had been a bit off this year. I have been beaten out of the blocks and that's something I'm not used to," Pearson added.
"We have tried to get my quick start back to where it was and the information we have now shows that I am starting faster than I ever have, which is exciting. To me the start is the most important thing about my race and if I can nail that then not many people can catch me from there."
The silver medallist in the women's 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow (RUS) two years ago, the 28-year-old Pearson is on the hunt for a return to the top of the dais in Beijing (CHN) later this year.
To prepare, Pearson has structured her season differently than in recent years, choosing to travel overseas twice to race with training at home on the Gold Coast (Qld) in between. The coming weeks feature starts at the Golden Grand Prix before IAAF Diamond League appearances in Doha (QAT), Rome (ITA) and Birmingham (GBR). She will then compete in New York (USA) before returning home. A second trip to Europe will see three further IAAF Diamond League races.
"It has worked out really well for me this year, probably for a lot of us Australians. In my case I am starting the international season a bit earlier with these couple of races overseas in May and we also have the good training blocks in between competition," Pearson said.
"After I run in New York there is another chance to get a bit of work done before we move in to back-to-back races in Lausanne, Monaco and London. Then I have another good amount of time before the team camp for the World Championships and that's only in Japan, near to our time zone, so we've decided to come home and do the training in Australia where my coach and my normal base is. I want to recover well from the second trip and know that I am in perfect shape, ready to take it on in Beijing."
On track alongside Pearson in Kawasaki (JPN) this weekend will be Lauren Wells (ACT, 400m hurdles), Melissa Breen (ACT, 100m), Jeff Riseley (Vic, 800m) and Heidi See (NSW, 1500m), with Brandon Starc (NSW, high jump), Hamish Peacock (Tas, javelin) and Brooke Stratton (Vic, long jump) to compete in field events.
Both Wells and Breen are continuing their preparation for the IAAF World Championships after being selected to the Australian Flame team last month. The duo raced in Shizuoka (JPN) last weekend, with Wells winning the 400m hurdles in 56.76 and Breen the 200m in 23.67. Riseley's start in the men's two-lap race follows his historic double in the 800m and 1500m at the Australian Athletics Championships, while See travels to the event after competing in the women's distance medley relay at the IAAF World Relays.
Starc cleared 2.20m in Shizuoka (JPN), with his start there following a very impressive Australian Athletics Tour that included his biggest ever leap of 2.30m and the national title. Peacock and Stratton also boast personal bests from domestic competition, with Peacock throwing the javelin 83.37m in Hobart (Tas) and Stratton soaring 6.73m in the long jump at the Adelaide Track Classic.
The Commonwealth discus champion Dani Samuels (NSW) will also battle it out this weekend.
Choosing to once again open her international campaign at the Werfer-Cup in Weisbaden (GER), Samuels will look to improve on the 67.99m throw she achieved at the event last year as she inches closer to the 68.72m Australian record.
She remains undefeated so far in 2015, taking victory at Australian Athletics Tour meets in Adelaide (SA) and Sydney (NSW), as well as at the Queensland Athletics Championships and the Australian Athletics Championships. Her season best is 66.21m.