Sally Pearson has been robbed of a shot at redemption in the women’s hurdles, after American rival Nia Ali disappointed Australian Athletics officials by pulling out of Saturday’s Melbourne World Challenge.
Ali beat Olympics gold medallist Pearson in the recent world indoor championships in Poland and the pair were set for a re-match this week in the 100 metre hurdles.
However, just 24 hours after her entry was officially confirmed, Ali pulled the pin.
Pearson had already expressed her desire to get one over Ali after her performance in Poland, where she started poorly in the final.
Australian Athletics executive officer Dallas O’Brien expressed his frustration after promotion for the high-profile match-up was well underway and said the event had been left in the lurch.
“It’s very disappointing, and to be honest frustrating, to hear that Nia has chosen to withdraw from competing at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge,” O’Brien said.
“We made the announcement of her start (on Sunday) following regular conversation with her management and given the lateness of the decision it will be difficult to replace her with an athlete of equal calibre.
“For athletics fans the race between Ali and Sally Pearson was a very exciting match-up and I apologise for the fact that it now wont go ahead at Lakeside Stadium next weekend.”
Despite Ali’s withdrawal, a number of quality international athletes will appear in Melbourne, with world champions David Oliver, LaShawn Merritt and Eunice Sum backing up from Sydney, as well as New Zealand’s Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams.