Once again, Sally Pearson was front and centre of the action on day one of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But not for the reason anyone hoped.
Jake Birtwhistle won Australia’s first medal of the Games – a silver behind South African Henri Schoeman in the men’s triathlon.
There was the prospect of plenty more podium action on Thursday night at the pool through the likes of Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon (women’s 200m freestyle) and Mark Horton (men’s 400m freestyle) and at the velodrome in the men’s and women’s team pursuits.
But the opening day of competition at the 21st edition of the Games was mostly about someone who, it turns out, won’t be competing at all.
The 31-year-old Pearson – whose glittering CV includes back-to-back golds in the 100m hurdles at the 2010 and 2014 Games – pulled out of her pet event and the 4x100m relay after her troublesome Achilles flared at training two days ago.
Her withdrawal means only four Australians will be ranked No.1 in the able-bodied track and field events at the Gold Coast Games – throwers Dani Stevens and Kathryn Mitchell, walker Beki Smith and marathoner Lisa Weightman.
“This has been an ongoing issue for a couple of years now and it is just unfortunate the timing was now,” said Pearson, who has long been the public face of her hometown Games.
“I wanted to be able to go to the opening ceremony and enjoy myself, I had a big role to play and that is why I left it until today to announce it.
“I did everything I possibly could.
“I left no stone unturned to get out here and race for Australia.”
But what is even more important for Pearson is extending her career through to next year’s world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“My health comes first and I want to get to Tokyo,” said the 2012 Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion.
“I won’t be running for the rest of the season.”
Running was what Birtwhistle did best on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Tasmanian was back in 12th place coming into the final leg of the men’s triathlon.
But he was able to reel in everyone except Schoeman to claim a surprise silver medal.
“I honestly thought I’d be struggling to finish in the top 10 or top eight,” Britwhistle said.
“Those guys up front, they’re the strongest swim-bikers in the sport. In saying that, they’re bloody good runners too.”
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