Coach Matthew Beckenham says beating Sally Pearson an important step for Melissa Breen

Breen Pearson was an ultra-consistent performer and a close result with a quick Pearson would also be a good result. Photo: Rohan ThomsonCoach Matthew Beckenham says Canberra sprint queen Melissa Breen has the perfect chance to start silencing doubts she can compete against the world’s best when she takes on Australian golden girl Sally Pearson on Saturday.
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While Breen and Pearson have played down the importance of the showdown that pits the Australian women’s 100-metre record holder against the national 100m champion at the AIS Track – with the importance switched to the world championships in Beijing in August – Beckenham still sees it as an important race for Breen.

About a year ago she shocked the Australian athletics world when she scorched down the AIS track to break Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s 20-year-old national record in 11.11 seconds.

It was on the same day Breen beat Pearson for the first and only time in their careers. While that run proved Breen was fast, Beckenham said there were still doubts about whether she could run quickly at a major meet – or against Sally Pearson.

He felt his charge was closing the gap on the Olympic champion hurdler, and every time Breen ran against Pearson it was a chance to remove the question marks.

“As we’ve learnt with Mel, she can run well in Canberra, but the jury that decide whether or not she’s a successful athlete judge it on how she runs at the majors,” Beckenham said. “This is a real opportunity on her home track … let’s run a good race against Sally.

“Let’s see if you can execute what we’ve been practising for the last 12 weeks on your own. The easiest way to assess it is she beats Sally.”

He said Breen was an ultra-consistent performer and a close result would also be a good result.

Breen is still in a heavy training mode and won’t be at her fastest on Saturday, with an eye on peaking in Beijing.

She reiterated her desire to simply run as fast as she can, with the goal of breaking the 11-second barrier.

It is the combination of Breen’s national record and Pearson’s glittering resume – an Olympic Games gold medal, a world championship crown and two Commonwealth Games golds in her beloved 100m hurdles – that has generated so much interest in this meet.

But Breen tempered expectations the national record would again be lowered on the super-quick Canberra track. “I appreciate, on face value, that’s great but it took 20 years for someone to do it, it’s not a thing that was easy to do,” she said.

“Obviously you’d always want to see an Aussie record … but for us right now, the top athletes … their main goal is to run their best times at world championships where you can make finals and get on the podium.”

Breen said there was added pressure running against Pearson, someone she has always looked up to.

“She’s probably one of the best starters in the world and in 100m that’s pretty critical and it obviously brings a lot more hype to [the race],” she said.

“So it makes you nervous, but it also makes you excited because you know it is going to be a fast race because she always turns up and she’s always in good shape.

“You always know you’re going to have a battle on your hands and that’s something you want to thrive on.”

Beckenham said another Canberran, 400m hurdler Lauren Wells, was in good shape and would be looking to run a world qualifying time of 56.2s on Saturday.

“Loz will run well tomorrow, I’d like her to get a qualifier,” he said.

“She’s got this week, she’s [got] Perth and the ACT champs three weeks in a row, which are normally good conditions.”

CANBERRA TRACK CLASSIC

Saturday: At the AIS Track, from 3.30pm.

Tickets $10, under-18s free.

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