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Pearson qualifies fastest in 100m hurdles
Sally Pearson after today's heat. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

World hurdling champion Sally Pearson started her gold medal campaign in style today when she qualified fastest for Wednesday's semi-finals.

The 26-year-old Beijing silver medallist made an early statement at the Olympic Stadium when she clocked 12.57seconds, the fastest in Olympics heats history.

After safely negotiating the heats, the world 100m hurdle champion backs up for the semi-final and final early Wednesday morning.

Last nights’ heats were a prelude to the most anticipated Australian female event at the Olympics since Cathy Freeman stole our hearts and settled our nerves with her 400m victory in a space age suit at the Sydney Games.

The time will be different because the final is not schedule until 4 am but there is immense interest in the event after some of Australia’s main gold hopes evaporated in the first week.

Pearson’s intentions were clear in tonight’s heats. The 26-year-old Australian wanted to make a statement to the rest of the field following her shock defeat to American Kellie Wells two weeks out from the Games.

That loss was only her second in 33 starts, such has been her dominance since the Queenslander won silver in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Pearson said the defeat only motivated her more. She took a tumble in a warm-up meet before the race at Crystal Palace when Wells now famously danced on the track after the victory.

Wells ran 12.57 seconds while Pearson was timed at 12.55secs, giving the Australian further solace because she holds the world record of 12.28secs, set during her golden run at the 2011 world championships , and has the current season best of 12.40secs.

The usual suspects are the Americans who have tracked and hunted Pearson for four years, settling into her slipstream because none was capable of beating her since Wells’ surprise victory.

Dawn Harper, the reigning Olympic champion, clocked 12.75secs in her heat to finish fourth fasted qualifier.

Wells shapes as the greatest menace to the health of the millions of Australians who can’t contemplate Pearson getting beaten.

She won her heat in 12.69secs while Lolo Jones, who missed Beijing because of injury, threw her name into the ring with a time of 12.68secs Veteran Jamaican Brigitte Foster-Hylton, the gold medallist in Athens, was the hard luck story of the day after she stumbled at the fourth hurdle and missed the semifinals.

Before last night’s heats, betting agency Ladbrokes had Pearson at Black Caviar prices. She was listed at 4/9 while Wells was 7/2 and Harper 7/1 for the final.