Sally Pearson
Sally Pearson

The final hurdle: What Sally does next

SALLY Pearson has revealed starting a family is the next step for her and husband Kieran after her shock retirement from athletics.

But her plans to become a mum will have to wait until Queensland's golden girl overcomes her immense sadness over her career ending.

Pearson says she and husband Kieran would "love" children but for now she is grappling with her new life and trying to figure out "where my talents may lie".

Speaking exclusively with The Sunday Mail in her first sit-down interview since her bombshell retirement announcement on Tuesday, the Gold Coaster confessed she had cried over the decision and was "doing it tough".

Sally Pearson is looking forward to more time with her dogs Oscar and Kayla (pictured) and husband Kieran. Picture: Adam Head
Sally Pearson is looking forward to more time with her dogs Oscar and Kayla (pictured) and husband Kieran. Picture: Adam Head

Pearson, who hopes to work to help Queensland secure the 2032 Olympic Games, said she will seek out a psychologist to help deal with the heartbreak.

Helping her take her mind off retirement, Pearson and Kieran will soon move into a new house at Southport, which they plan to renovate.

They will share it with their two dogs - 10-year-old golden retriever Oscar and 13-year-old greyhound Kayla which they rescued from the Queensland Animal Welfare League.

The pooches are their furry children, but she admits real kids could be on the horizon.

"I guess that's the next step isn't it?" Pearson said. "We actually sit down and really talk about when might be the right time to focus on making a family. Obviously we'd love to have kids but we're not sure when yet. I'm still very selfish … I've still got an athlete's head on," she added with a chuckle.

Taking stock

Pearson said Kieran, her Helensvale State High sweetheart whom she married in 2010, had supported her at athletics meets around the world and had been "almost as much a part of the sport as I have".

"I think for both of us it's about recovering from this whole 20 years of being involved in the sport and getting over retirement before we make any big life decisions like that (having children)," she said.

"It's going to take its toll on both of us, I think, over the next few months.

"I mean, this has been my life for 20 years and it's just all I've known. So to not have that any more is hard to take. I made the decision with tears in my eyes."

Pearson was training for next month's world championships in Doha with her sights set on next year's Tokyo Olympics when she realised her injury-plagued body just could not take it any more.

"I knew for a week before I announced it … so that whole week was very, very long. I felt sick through most of it," she said.

"Even now it's done and out in the open, I don't know if I feel any better for it. I feel maybe some sense of relief but still I feel like I've got a long way to go before I feel comfortable with what I'm doing.

Sally Pearson with husband Kieran after winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2012 London Games
Sally Pearson with husband Kieran after winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2012 London Games

"I don't think it's going to happen overnight, because you don't want to reflect just yet, you want to be still competing. But your body's not letting you.

"That process is going to be a long and difficult one, transitioning out of the sport and into normal life. It's going to be very strange."

As she battles to come to terms with the radically life-changing decision to hang up her racing spikes, Pearson revealed she would see a psychologist to help her handle the initial grief.

"I saw a sports psychologist for my athletics and I think I'm going to maybe speak to her next week and she'll see how I am," she said.

"I've never spoken to a sports psychologist about anything except athletics, so it's going to be quite interesting."

Pearson said retired athletes including Libby Trickett, Ian Thorpe and Mick Fanning had reached out to her on social media, with Fanning even offering to take her surfing.

"It's nice to have your close friends there and other superstars that understand what you're going through," she said. "It (retirement) still hurts … it (professional sport) is who you are and you sometimes don't know who you are without it."

No regrets

But Pearson said she had no regrets about retiring, as she simply had no choice.

"You have to think about what's important in your life, and if you're happy … and I wasn't happy," she said.

"I was sick of waking up sore and stepping out of bed and limping to the bathroom. It's not a nice feeling.

"I suppose that might not change but at least I don't have to get up and go for a run. I might be sore getting out of bed but I don't have to go and push my body to vomit level and try and hope that it's going to be OK for the next competition.

"It would have been nice to have gone on to Tokyo, and just three weeks ago I thought I was going to be there - fit, strong, fast and healthy. But for an athlete, things change very, very quickly. It just so happened that it (injury) happened to me … again.

"It's more disappointing than regretful thoughts. It's just something that you can't control.

"I'm very fortunate in my career that I've achieved the highest of highs, battled through injury and I still came back and got on top again. I'm fortunate to have been able to have experienced that.

"It's still hard to take, it's still a bitter pill to swallow but you have to at the end of the day."

Pearson has been invited by both Athletics Australia and the International Association of Athletics Federations to have roles at the world championships and Tokyo Olympics, and she is keen for some media commentary work. "It would be nice to see it from the other side, get the interviews with the athletes and know what they're going through," she said.

"I love the sport and I want to be a part of it."

 

Sally Pearson takes a tumble at the final two hurdles at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Sally Pearson takes a tumble at the final two hurdles at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

Moving on

Many of her sponsors, including Coles, are sticking by her. She picked up a flash new car last week from another sponsor, Gold Coast Audi.

"They're (her sponsors) still very supportive at the moment," she said.

"I can do a lot more for them now because I'm available. It was just hard in the past because of training."

A plumber and gasfitter by trade, Kieran is looking to start his own business now that his wife's long and illustrious athletics career is over.

"It's a big change but it's exciting," the quietly spoken tradie said.

"Plumbing will definitely be on the cards, because that's what I know. It's going to be a very different life, that's for sure. I'm going from travelling the world to fixing toilets (laughter)."

The couple has recently taken up golf and also plan to spend more time zipping around the Southport Broadwater on their jet ski.

With no more gut-busting training sessions to worry about, they are also expected to become more regular fixtures on the Gold Coast social circuit.

"We go to the occasional function but it's hard on the athlete's body, especially if you're a female in high heels," Pearson said.

"If the invitations are there, we'd probably do more because it's very important for me to support the local community."

Pearson said she would also relish a role in helping Queensland secure the 2032 Olympics "if they'll (bid organisers) have me".

She said last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which she shatteringly missed through injury, showed Queensland was capable of hosting a major international sporting spectacular.

"The Commonwealth Games is a lot smaller than the Olympics but I think we can do it," she said.

"We pulled it off really, really well with the Games last year and the new Olympics format means we can spread the love between cities in southeast Queensland."

Pearson takes out gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Pearson takes out gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Mentor role

Pearson will also continue mentoring young athletes at the Griffith University track where she has trained for years.

"They have their own goals but I'll do what I can to support them and help them achieve their goals," she said.

"One of the girls last weekend did a PB (personal best) at a local interclub meet so that was pretty special.

"I'll probably still run with them, just to keep fit. I just won't do the vomit sessions."

Pearson said she was glad to be able to retire on something approaching her own terms. "The good thing about the timing of the announcement is that I still love the sport, I still enjoy it and I'm still passionate about it," she said. "I'm glad that I'm not finishing on a note where I hate the sport and where I'm fully broken (with injuries) … I'm only partially broken.

"I'm a little lost at the moment but, as much as I feel like that, I do feel quite excited as well. I don't know what's ahead but I'm excited for the next chapter, I suppose.

"I guess for me the world's my oyster and I'll just dabble in a few things and learn a lot, because I do have to learn a lot. I don't know what else I'm good at.

"I don't know where my next talent may lie, I don't know where my next passion may lie.

"I don't know what's going to make me just as excited as athletics did. So I just have to wait and see."

Sally Pearson soaking up retirement on the Gold Coast. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Sally Pearson soaking up retirement on the Gold Coast. Picture: Nigel Hallett


UPDATE: Fraser Coast graduate still critical after crash

Premium Content UPDATE: Fraser Coast graduate still critical after crash

The Fraser Coast teen attended her formal on Friday night

$39.6m mental health unit build to begin in Bay

Premium Content $39.6m mental health unit build to begin in Bay

The new building will double the mental health bed capacity on the Fraser Coast