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Sarah Carli



Place of Birth

Wollongong, NSW



Junior Club

Wollongong City Little Athletics

Senior Club

Kembla Joggers


Melissa Smith

Olympic History

Tokyo 2020

Paris 2024

Career Events

Athletics Women's 400m Hurdles


Sarah's Story

When Sarah Carli was aged eight, she answered a Wollongong City Little Athletics advertisement in her school newsletter.

“My sister and I decided to sign up together for the U9s. I have been running ever since,” Sarah said.

At 16 in December 2010 she won the Australian Schools 400m hurdles in an impressive 60.52. At the 2011 Australian championships she placed second and secured selection for the World Youth Championships. Once there she was outstanding, destroying her Personal Best through the three rounds, eventually placing second in the final in 58.05 seconds – fifth fastest in Australian junior history.

Sarah was able to repeat in the 58 second range a couple more times, but she didn't improve her PB for seven years.

She explained what happened during those seven years and that life got in the way of her sport.

“I forgot the sport was for fun and as a junior I got badly injured, so I was then enjoying other aspects of my life and I wasn’t ready to give that up.

"I was at university and working at Costco - huge hours and late nights.”

Improvements returned when Sarah settled into a career, a desk job and regular training routine. It also took the prospect of a home Games to inspire her to her next two PBs 57.63 in the semi and 56.87 in the final of the 400m hurdles at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games trials in February 2018. She was a close third in the race, with just the winner selected for the Games.

She launched into another winter of training (in 2018) and at the 2019 Canberra Track Classic Sarah sprung a surprise clocking 55.67, a 1.2 seconds Personal Best and importantly a Doha World Championships qualifier. Sarah’s win also handed the first defeat in eight years to one of the greats of Australian 400m hurdling - Lauren Boden. Sarah went on to place second in the nationals and at the Oceania Championships.

Her outstanding form and progress continued at the 2019 World Championships where she made the semi-finals and ran a phenomenal Personal Best of 55.43, just 0.03 seconds outside the Olympic qualifier.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Sarah trained very well in Wollongong and in her first hurdles of the season in December 2020 she ran even quicker, clocking 55.09, moving up to fourth on the all-time Australian list. Set for an incredible season, in late February she had a very serious accident in the gym while lifting weights. She was stepping up onto a box with a bar on her back, but slipped, fell forward, hit her head on the box and the bar came down on her neck. She had damaged the wall of the carotid artery in her neck, which required life-saving vascular surgery. The recovery was slow, but she resumed racing in June and clocked a promising 58.53.

She made her Olympic debut in Tokyo without much of an opportunity to establish form, but hurdled well to a season best time of 56.93 to finish fifth in her heat. Unfortunately, Sarah was 0.1 of a second away from automatically qualifying through her heat.

In 2022 she raced regularly and in April claimed her first ever Australian title. It took until mid-year until she was getting back to her pre-accident form. In her last race in Europe before the 2022 World Championships she clocked 55.66 seconds, the third fastest of her career and the quickest since her near career ending gym accident in early 2021. In Eugene she made the 400m hurdles semi-final and two weeks later at the Commonwealth Games she was sixth in the final.

In Europe in 2023 she smashed her PB clocking 54.66. She also ran three of her fastest four times. Her new PB was a best by 0.42 seconds, moved her to number three Australian all-time behind Olympic champion Debbie Flintoff-King and world champion Jana Pittman. At the world championships in Budapest, Sarah seemed to miss the start in her heat, eventually placing sixth in her heat and missing qualification for the semi-final by one place.

A short domestic season in 2024, saw her win her third National title in a very quick 54.96 – the second fastest time of her career. She added the Oceania title in June.

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