Two-time world hurdles champion Sally Pearson (Qld) has been honoured as one of seven finalists nominated for ‘The Don’ Award after her remarkable victory to win the world 100m hurdles title at the world athletics championships in London in August.
Twice a winner of The Don (2013 and 2015) Pearson was selected from a long-list of over 20 potential candidates, as one of seven finalists to mark one month to go to this year’s ceremony.
Producing a remarkable comeback from a career threatening wrist injury in London, Pearson’s feat was recognised as one of the top Australian sporting moments of the past twelve months.
Competing in her first major championship since 2015 after missing the defence of her Olympic title in Rio, the 30-year-old coached herself and produced a spectacular display of hurdling to claim her second world title last August.
The Don Award is widely regarded as Australia’s leading contemporary sporting award and is named in honour of Australian sporting legend and first Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductee, the late Sir Donald Bradman AC.
Introduced in 1998, only two athletes have twice been awarded ‘The Don’ – with Olympic champions Sally Pearson (2013 and 2015) and Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) both laying claim to dual victories. Pearson knows what it’s like to stand on the stage in front of the who’s who of Australian sport at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards.
“The Don Award is the pinnacle of Australian sports awards,” Pearson said.
“To be named as one of the finalists is a huge honour. That being said, the night is also very special because all the superstars of Australian sports across many decades are gathered under one roof and I look up to them all.”
Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee chair Rob de Castella AO MBE said ‘The Don’ is awarded annually to the athlete or team who, through their performance and example over the past year (September 2016 – September 2017), has most inspired the nation. The criteria for the award is inspired by the words of Sir Donald at the time of becoming the first inductee in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
“The Don Award is not an award for the most popular or the best performance of the year, but much more,” de Castella said
“The Don Award seeks to capture, celebrate, recognise and reward the individual or team who has ‘most inspired the nation’ through their performance,” de Castella said.
In accepting his inaugural induction, Sir Donald said “When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.” Hard work and dedication remain essential for all individuals who must embrace, with equal fervor, opportunity and responsibility”.
De Castella said these words encompass the spirit in which the selection committee determines the annual finalists and winner.
“The Don has become the ultimate recognition of this ideal and indeed the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon an athlete or team during their competitive career,” de Castella added.
Joining Pearson as a nominee for the award is a stellar cast of Australian sporting performances in 2017 including, Jeff Horn’s stunning defeat of Manny Pacquiao, to the Matildas demolition of Brazil in the Tournament of Nations, Olympic basketballer Erin Phillip’s domination of the inaugural AFLW, Emily Seebohm’s world title in the pool after Olympic disappointment, surf queen Tyler Wright’s world championship and Johnathan Thurston’s incredible State of Origin effort with an injured shoulder.
The Don award for 2017 will be presented at the sold out 33rd Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner – presented by Etihad Airways – on Thursday, 12th October 2017 at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne.