Sally Pearson's Olympic gold medal win can be traced back to the day she started Little Athletics.

Pearson was just 11-years-old but the skills and values she would learn, saw her not only win gold in the 100m hurdles at London's 2012 Olympics but cement her in history as one of Australia's most recognisable sprint and hurdle champions.

After giving birth to daughter Ruby during pandemic conditions in July, the retired athlete has turned her focus to the new generation of young sportspeople.

Lauren Heath, 15, from Algester getting back into Little Athletics with Sally Pearson. Picture: Peter Wallis
Lauren Heath, 15, from Algester getting back into Little Athletics with Sally Pearson. Picture: Peter Wallis

Joined by some of the country's most inspiring athletes - including track and field world-champions Kelsey-Lee Barber and Jaryd Clifford and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Matthew Denny - Pearson is encouraging a resurgence in Little Athletics registrations around the country after a woeful year for sport.

"My purpose is to encourage kids to live healthier and happier lives and as my sport has always been athletics, it's a crucial goal for me to achieve," Pearson said.

"I started Little Athletics when I was 11 and sport became my career … so to see sport thriving for the next generation is really exciting.

"It's an opportunity for kids to really learn about each and every event then find out where their talents lie. It's a real chance to learn competitive sport and be part of a family friendly environment."

The call comes as Coles prepared to announce a new partnership agreement with Little Athletics Australia and Athletics Australia on Monday.

Since 2017, Coles has provided more than $1.68 million in grants for sports equipment to 376 Little Athletics centres as well as more than three million bananas for young athletes during training and competitions.

 

Meleah Hackett, 8, Lauren Heath 15, Alex Epitropakis 14 and Rylee O’Shaughnessy, 15 with Pearson at the Algester Little Athletics. Picture: Peter Wallis
Meleah Hackett, 8, Lauren Heath 15, Alex Epitropakis 14 and Rylee O’Shaughnessy, 15 with Pearson at the Algester Little Athletics. Picture: Peter Wallis

Today's's announcement will see the supermarket giant commit to providing further financial support to build grassroots athletics for more than 500 Little Athletics and in schools, with a focus on encouraging increased participation by Indigenous and para-athletes.

Little Athletics Australia president Andrew Pryor said while the pandemic had stopped clubs operating earlier in the year, they were only a few hundred registrations away from the 90,000 this time last year.

"The early signs are positive and reflective of the community's desire to get back to business as usual," Mr Pryor said.

Pearson gives Meleah Hackett some sprint pointers. Picture: Peter Wallis
Pearson gives Meleah Hackett some sprint pointers. Picture: Peter Wallis

"As we prepare to bring back the 2020/2021 season, we are opening up registrations for competitions in all jurisdictions except Victoria.

"Coles is a tremendous partner for LLA as our two organisations are aligned in terms of values. We are both very family and community orientated and promote health lifestyles."

Coles CEO Steven Cain said Little Athletics embodies Coles' purpose to help Australians lead healthier, happier lives.

"We're extremely excited to help Aussie athletes across the country to pursue their personal bests whether that's at their local Little Athletics centre or on the international stage," Mr Cain said.

"We know it's been a challenging time for everyone involved in sport and we're pleased to play our part to assist local clubs and Aussie champions alike."

Little Athletics offers social and active programs focused on having fun learning track and field events for children aged five to 15.

Visit littleathletics.com.au

Originally published as New mum Sally Pearson's message for little athletes


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