Sally tipped to be the fastest
THE first time respected athletics coach Sharon Hannan saw world champion hurdler Sally Pearson, she knew she wanted to work with her.
It was March, 1999, and a 12-year-old Ms Pearson was competing at the Little Athletics state championships in Townsville.
"I was impressed. Her mum asked me to start coaching her straight away," Ms Hannan said yesterday at the State Government's Get Active Queensland Accreditation Program at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
"I just thought she looked like a fairly raw talent, and I didn't start coaching her hurdles until (she was) 14."
And the reason Ms Pearson wanted to compete in hurdles after focusing on the sprint events?
"She worked out the sprinters only got to train on Tuesday and Thursday, and hurdlers got to train Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - she would have trained seven days a week if I had let her," Ms Hannan said.
Fast forward 12 years and the pair are still together - and Ms Pearson is on the cusp of greatness.
She is the hot favourite to win the 100m hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics after a stunning performance at the recent world championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Her time of 12.28 seconds was the fourth fastest in history and many people, including her coach, believe she is capable of breaking the long-standing, drug-tainted world record.
Ms Hannan, for one, was not surprised by her arrestingly quick time at the words.
"I'm not really blown away," she said.
"I knew all along that she could run those sort of times, and I knew no one else in the world is capable of running those times."
Ms Hannan said her 25-year-old charge's dedication to training was what made her so special, along, of course, with plenty of natural talent.
She recalled how a teenage Pearson rarely missed training.
"She just had different priorities to a lot of kids," the coach said.
"Her priority is her sport, and everything else had to work around it."
Ms Hannan shared her coaching skills at yesterday's USC event, which provided free training for teachers and school sport volunteers.