Sally Pearson: Conquering mental hurdles

April 28, 2017




Just last year Australia’s golden girl of hurdling, Sally Pearson, asked herself why she still wanted to compete.

It had been a big year—for all the wrong reasons. “Broken bones, torn calf, degenerative achilles and hammy problems…sometimes I wonder why I still continue to do this sport,” she wrote in her blog last June

The London Olympian tore her hamstring just a month out from the Rio Olympics, dashing her chances to defend her 100 m hurdles title. It was a bitter disappointment after fighting back from the devastating fall in the 2015 Rome Diamond League meeting where she had smashed her wrist—12 broken bones in all.

“To be honest, when I first did my wrist, I retired in my head. I didn’t want to come back to the sport and hated everything about the world. I was just sick of getting injured,” she told The Telegraph.

And fair enough, too. Pearson had already won a clutch of medals and honours, including gold at the London Olympics, setting a new Olympic record in the process. She was injured, she was 30 years of age—was it time to retire gracefully? 

She decided that the answer was “no”, but it wasn’t an easy journey back to the track. Pearson said she entered a “new season” of new challenges. Injuries, disappointment and self-doubt to overcome, she decided to coach herself. “The “feeling is invigorating… I am taking full responsibility for everything I am doing, thinking and feeling.”

So, it was a magic moment earlier this month when the champion powered down the track to take out her eighth national hurdles title in Sydney, posting her fastest time since the 2013 Moscow world championships.

It was a phenomenal effort; she had beaten potentially career-ending injuries and crushing self-doubt to prove to herself—and the athletics fraternity—that she was still competitive at the elite level. No wonder an emotional Pearson pulled up mid-track after the race and cried. 

While most of us are not champion athletes, how many of us feel exhausted by lives not going to plan? Sometimes we just feel like giving up because we’re sick of struggling to overcome setbacks, illnesses or unexpected circumstances. 

Perhaps it is some comfort to know that people have felt like this for centuries. In the Bible, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to encourage them, reminding them that God will give strength to those who ask him for it. 

“That is why we never give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day“ (2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 16). 


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