Sally Pearson delivers the Commonwealth Games speech she would have given
Sally Pearson never got the chance to have her say to her team. She never got to deliver the speech she wanted to before the Commonwealth Games for circumstances in Britain collided to prevent that.
Those circumstances were part of an escalation of events before and during the Games, which are now the subject of two reviews into her sport: one by Athletics Australia, which is understood to be completed and could be released next week, and another by the Australian Sports Commission.
Pearson did not get to talk to the Australian team before Glasgow because she did not attend the pre-Games camp as she chased races in a bid to get her body right to defend her hurdles title.
That she did not attend the camp and was subsequently financially penalised was one of the issues that percolated to become the scandal that eventually saw the team’s head coach Eric Hollingsworth sent home from Glasgow and lose his job.
“Circumstances leading into the Glasgow Commonwealth Games prevented me from addressing the team as a group and I would like to do that now,” she said as she asked to speak directly to the athletes in the room at the Australian Athlete of the Year awards ceremony on Thursday night.
“Firstly, let me say how proud I was to be appointed your captain for the Games, and more importantly how proud we all were of your performances. It is very rare that both personal and team preparation for a major meet goes exactly to plan and that was certainly the case for me and this team on this occasion. However, perform the team did, and we should be proud of that great achievement.”
Pearson’s speech provided not only a moment of congratulation but a chance to cast ahead to the Olympic Games that sit tantalisingly on the horizon – Rio in 2016.
“The Comm Games are now behind us and while we have several inquiries being conducted that will go a long way to ensuring mistakes of the Comm Games are addressed, it is all targeted at making our team better as we move forward. There will be changes but the one thing which will remain is our love of the sport and our love of the challenge,” she said.
“While there are people looking backwards to make improvements, it is our role as athletes to look forward … to both the world championships in Beijing [in 2015] and the Olympic Games in Rio. We face the challenge of preparing ourselves to the best of our ability. Let’s surround ourselves in positivity, take no short cuts and leave no stone unturned in search of shaved seconds or hundredths of seconds, metres or fractions of metres.
“Do not set goals of just making the team, set goals of winning, dream not of the opening ceremony but of your podium moment.”
She added that the team needed to earn respect in a comment that hinted at a loss of respect after the events of Glasgow.
“The onus is on us to make sure we earn our country’s respect, not only for being the best individuals in green and gold, but also the best team,” she said.
Pearson said she had learnt from painful experience in the past two years as she battled hamstring troubles in the lead-up to the Moscow world championships in 2013 and this year’s Commonwealth Games that she was as vulnerable to injury as anyone.
“I thought I was bulletproof … I now know that I am not and I get injured just like any other athlete,” she said.
Pearson recently changed coach, splitting with Antony Drinkwater-Newman, with whom she had been with only briefly after splitting with long-term coach Sharon Hannan.
The change came in unusual circumstances after Drinkwater-Newman was sought for a high-paying overseas coaching position and told Pearson of his intent to pursue the rare opportunity.
Drinkwater-Newman only later discovered the job offer was a strange sort of hoax, but by that time Pearson had committed to working with her new coach Ashley Mahoney.