Sally Pearson was born in Sydney and moved to the Gold Coast when she was eight years old. It was there, while she was still in primary school, that her athletic talents were noticed by Sharon Hannan, who remains her coach to this day. Pearson rose to prominence in 2001, when at the age of only 14, she won the Australian under-20 100m title. After injury setbacks during 2002 she made her international debut at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada and won gold in the 100 m hurdles. The following month, still only 16 years old, she represented Australia at open level at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France as part of the 4 x 100 m relay team. In 2004 she won a bronze in the 100 m at the World Junior Championships, and just missed out on a medal in the 100 m hurdles.
At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, Pearson tripped over a hurdle and fell to the ground during the 100 m hurdles final, costing her the chance of a medal. In 2007 she continued to pursue both the 100 m and the 100 m hurdles, making the semi-final of each event at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. However in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games, she shifted her focus solely to the 100 m hurdles. This decision paid off, with Pearson claiming the silver medal in a dramatic final, where the favourite Lolo Jones stumbled and a photo finish was required to decide the minor medals. After the announcement of the official results a jubilant Pearson celebrated enthusiastically with bronze medal winner Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, and gave an emotional trackside interview.
Pearson was in good form during the 2009 European season, winning five out of seven races and breaking the Australian and Oceanian record in the 100 m hurdles at the Herculis meeting in July, with a time of 12.50 seconds; 0.03 faster than the area record she had set on the same track a year earlier. However she was hampered by back spasms in the lead up to the World Championships in Berlin, and was only able to finish fifth in the 100 m hurdles final.
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