Sport Comment: Has Sally gone past Cathy as our best ever?

15:56  13 august  2017
15:56  13 august  2017 Source:   Wide World of Sports

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Pearson's three major titles came at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 and 2017 world championships.© Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Pearson's three major titles came at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 and 2017 world championships. For any number of reasons, Cathy Freeman's triumph in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics arguably stands alone in the annals of Australian track and field history.

Having lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony, Freeman carried the hopes of a nation to victory.

That she was the first indigenous athlete to win individual gold at Olympic level only added to the significance of her triumph.

Freeman's place as an all-time Australian sporting great is unchallenged - and it always will be.

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But in winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the world titles in London on Saturday night, Sally Pearson can now lay claim to an even better record than Freeman in her favoured event at global championships.

Pearson's three major titles came at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 and 2017 world championships.

Freeman's three 400m titles were at the Sydney Olympics and the 1997 and 1999 world championships.

Pearson chasing yet another major medal

  Pearson chasing yet another major medal Sally Pearson is chasing a fifth major medal at the world athletics championships in London. The loss of Jared Tallent to a hamstring injury lays bare the level of expectation on Sally Pearson to once again save Australia's skin on the medals table at the world athl Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the ultra-consistent walker and the sprint hurdles queen have been responsible for more than 50 per cent of the medals - 11 out of 21 - accrued by Australia at global championships.

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But Pearson has also won two major silver medals, while Freeman only has the one.

For the first time, a good case can be made that the 30-year-old Pearson is Australia's greatest track and field athlete of the modern era.

Another interesting comparison is with the great Betty Cuthbert, who died earlier this month aged 79.

In the amateur era before the world championships, Cuthbert won four Olympic track gold medals in four different events.

Cuthbert is the only track and field athlete - male or female - to win Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

While loath to compared athletes from different eras, Australian head coach Craig Hilliard declared Pearson deserved to be ranked right up with the greatest modern Australian track athletes.

"You couldn't help getting emotional with just the whole build-up and what she's done in the last few weeks," he said.

"She's an incredibly steely competitor to do what she's done.

"A lot of athletes and coaches could take a leaf out of her book.

"It's hard to compare eras, I don't think you can, and it would be stupid of me to do that. You can't.

"Betty Cuthbert was a freak in herself.

"But in the current era she's right up there with the best, there's no question about that."

Hilliard said Pearson had made a big statement with her slick semi-final time of 12.53 seconds on Friday - six hundredths of a second faster than she ran in the final.

"Then it was like - don't change anything, just repeat what you have done," he said.

"She warmed up really well and she was just controlled in everything she did.

"She's like Cathy Freeman, she finds another ten per cent.

"She's just a classic athlete who finds another level."

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