A trio of prominent Australian Paralympians have hit out at compatriot Sally Pearson after the Olympic gold medal-winning 100 metre hurdler joked she’s “going to have to go to the Paralympics now” while discussing her initial thoughts following a recent injury to her wrist.
Paralympic swimmers Sam Bramham and Jessica Smith, as well as athlete and goalballer Jodi Willis-Roberts have all expressed their anger at Pearson’s remark made during a press conference on Monday (June 15).
Pearson feared her left hand would have to be amputated after falling at the Diamond League event in Rome on June 4, leading to her comment for which she has since apologised.
The London 2012 gold medallist’s lower arm turned blue following the incident, causing what doctors described as a "bone explosion".
Although she has since undergone surgery in Italy, she still requires another operation and is set to miss August’s Athletics World Championships in Beijing.
“I completely appreciate that Sally Pearson endured a terrible accident, and I also appreciate how scared she must have been and still is about her career,” Smith told Daily Mail Online.
"But really Sally...maybe think next time before you talk...because last time I checked there's nothing wrong with going to the 'Paralympics'.”
Willis-Roberts, a visually-impaired shot put and discus thrower, had earlier written to Pearson to say she was “very disappointed” to read the comments.
She stated that she is currently attempting to qualify for the International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Doha this October.
“Really disappointed in your comments,” said Willis-Roberts, who has competed at seven Paralympic Games, winning two gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
"I can assure you that I am training my butt off with NO funding at all, in fact after my trip to Brisbane to complete on the weekend, I have $300 (£191/€266) in the bank and no job.
“Please think about what you say with regard to the Paralympics in the future."
Two-time Paralympic gold medallist Sam Bramham told Daily Mail Australia it was a "silly" comment to make and that he has asked Pearson on Twitter what she was “insinuating”.
“Sally Pearson is an amazing athlete - I've met her personally, amazing person,” he said.
“She understands what an athlete has to go through whether they have a disability or not.
“I think it was one of those throwaway comments where there wasn't thought put into it.
“It definitely has...caused a lot of people to pipe up and say what's so bad about the Paralympics?
“We're athletes too - we wear the green and gold just like Sally.”
Robert Joske, Pearson’s spokesman, sought to defend the Olympic champion.
“It's all a matter of perception,” he said.
“Sally had no intention of denigrating the Paralympians and has only the utmost respect for them both as athletes and people.
“She was only trying to put a positive spin on a very personal painful scenario.
“We sincerely apologise if anyone has taken any offence.”
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