Athletics golden girl Sally Pearson has opened up on life away from the running track and how becoming a mum has been one of her proudest achievements.
Pearson, who spent 16 years on the Australian athletics team, most memorably winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games, announced her shock retirement from the sport in August last year after suffering six injuries in just six months.
Since trading hurdles for nappies to raise her daughter with husband Kieran, Pearson now spends her time coaching up and coming Olympic hopefuls.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia Pearson said she would always cherish the adrenaline rush competing gave her along with the highly-anticipated Olympic Games celebrations.
Olympic champion Sally Pearson (pictured with two-month-old daughter Ruby) has opened up about her life away from the track
Pearson is seen celebrating after winning Gold in the 100m Hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games
‘The Olympics are absolutely fantastic. It’s so inspiring when you’re in the Olympic village,’ she said.
‘It’s just got a buzz about it and everyone walks around like little peacocks their feathers come out and they stand tall.’
Often the highlight of the Olympic Games was after the competition finished, where athletes, who Pearson joked were usually ‘cheap drunks’ were treated to dozens of parties.
‘It’s kind of bizarre because a lot of athletes have already left. But so many of the sponsors of the Olympics put parties on all over the city,’ she said.
‘It’s a lot of fun. Everyone’s usually quite responsible but we do enjoy ourselves.
‘It’s such a big build up to the Olympic Games so you need time to have a bit of fun and have a dance.’
Leaving her glory days behind, the now mother to a two-month-old said becoming a parent had transformed her life.
‘It’s really special. I never imagined what it would be like to be a parent because it wasn’t really on my radar as I dedicated my life to athletics,’ Pearson said.
Pearson (pictured with husband Kieran) announced her shock retirement last August after spending 16 years on the Australian athletics team
Pearson (pictured at the London Olympic Games) has since taken up coaching, with a few Olympic hopefuls running on her team
‘Since being a mum it changes your whole perspective on life and it’s a very selfish thing to do to raise a human to be the best person they can be so it’s very fulfilling.’
Ruby’s birth however was another hurdle to jump and she was born in the midst of COVID-19 – meaning only one family member could visit her each day.
‘Ruby is the first grandchild on both sides of our family so not being able to have your family there straight after giving birth was a little bit sad for them and for us as well to be able to share in the joy of her arrival,’ Pearson said.
‘Family members had to take it in turns so it was a bit tough for them but we got through it.’
After having a child of her own, Pearson revealed she has taken up another role as an ambassador for DrinkWise which aims to raise awareness of the risks associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Babies can develop the condition Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) if their mothers had consumed even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pearson with her daughter Ruby. The athlete said becoming a parent had changed her perspective on everything
WHAT IS FASD
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a condition in people that have been exposed to alcohol while in the womb or having been breastfed
The condition affects the brain which can result in learning and behavioural problems
People with FASD can also have birth defects and altered facial features
The condition can occur in babies, children and adults and has lifelong consequences
This can trigger problems in babies in relation to learning and behaviour as well as changes to facial features.
Pearson who is hoping to educate other women for FASD Awareness Day on September 9, said she had no idea of the consequences even one glass of wine could have.
‘I thought why doesn’t everyone know about this especially expectant mothers, why don’t they know the importance of abstaining from alcohol while pregnant and breastfeeding as well which shocked me,’ she said.
‘I found out there is no safe limit of alcohol to drink while pregnant or breastfeeding.’
Pearson said it wasn’t hard to avoid alcohol during her pregnancy due to her time as a disciplined athlete.
‘I suppose for mothers to abstain from alcohol you just do but you don’t really know why you’re doing it,’ she said.
‘It’s just so important people understand if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding that you abstain from alcohol because there is just no safe limit.’
Pearson is seen celebrating with teammates Naa Anang, Maddie Coates and Riley Day at the IAAF World Relays in Japan last year
Reflecting back on her strict competition routine and in light of many doping scandals that plagued the sport, Pearson said she knew to focus on her own performance.
‘Yes (doping) was happening but you don’t think about it when you’re trying to compete,’ she said.
‘I’ve probably ran against a few people who have done drugs or been banned for drugs but when you’re out there competing you just focus on that more than anything.’
Rumours had swirled that Pearson was going to make an appearance in the Tokyo Games scheduled for next July before announcing her retirement in August 2019.
After nearly two decades on the track, the 33-year-old said it was hard to let it go.
Pearson has since become the ambassador for DrinkWise – an initiative that aims to educate women on the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding
Pearson suffered six injuries in six months before retiring in August, 2019 – but vows to run forever
‘It’s definitely something that holds you in the sport and makes you want to keep doing it – the adrenaline and the nerves,’ she said.
‘It’s something I’m going to miss most mostly having that feeling of excitement, even smelling the air and smelling the track. That’s something I’m not going to have and something I’m going to have to deal with so hopefully I can live that through (coaching) my athletes.
‘Your mind could continue on forever but your body is the one taking the force so your body tells you when it’s time (to retire) unfortunately.
‘Running is a part of my life and I’ll always run forever – well for as long as my body lets me.’
SALLY’S ILLUSTRIOUS LIFE ON THE TRACK
Sally Pearson’s talent on the track was discovered at a young age and over her illustrious 16-year-long career in sports she has raked in a trove of medals.
Listed below are just a handful of her achievements:
2008 Beijing Olympic Games: Silver, 100 metre hurdles
2012 London Olympic Games: Gold, 100m hurdles
IAAF World Athletics Championships:
2011 Daegu World Championships: Gold, 100m hurdles
2013 Moscow World Championships: Silver, 100m hurdles
2017 London World Championships: Gold, 100m hurdles
2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: Bronze, 4x100m relay
2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games: Gold, 100m hurdles
2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games: Gold, 100m hurdles