Freeman won an emotion-packed 400m at the 2000 Games on home soil in Sydney, the spark that Pearson said had ignited in her the desire to win Olympic gold, which she sealed in 12.35sec.
"I really wouldn't have cared if I'd won in 14 seconds," said a beaming Pearson last night. "I wanted that gold medal. I've been working for four years now to get that gold medal and it's been a dream of mine for 12 years since I watched Cathy Freeman win her gold in Sydney. So it's unbelievable."
The race yesterday was not all plain sailing for 25-year-old Pearson, who was pushed to the line and held her nerve to win with a powerful dip finish. The Australian's time was an Olympic record and edged Beijing gold medallist Dawn Harper of the United States, who timed a personal best of 12.37sec. American Kellie Wells claimed bronze in 12.48sec.
"I don't even know how to describe it because it's like a dream right now," said Pearson, who has been based in Britain for the last six weeks to escape the pressure in Australia.
With the times so close, there was a nervous wait to see who had won the race, and when Pearson's name flashed up as the gold medallist, the Australian roared with delight before setting off on a lap of honour.
"It was funny because I crossed the finishing line and I'm like 'oh yeah, I'm well clear of this' and then I looked over and I'm like 'maybe I'm not'," said Pearson. "But I really did feel like I'd won that race and it was just a matter of having it confirmed on the scoreboard and you don't realise how special that is to see your name at the number one spot. It was incredible."
Pearson's victory was Australia's first track and field gold of the London Games, coming a day after Mitchell Watt claimed a silver in the men's long jump, with Steve Hooker still to go in the men's pole vault. It was a welcome tonic for the Australian team as the sporting powerhouse had been languishing on the medals table, but is now up to 11th with four golds.
But it is a far cry from the 2008 Olympics, where they finished sixth in the table with a bumper haul of 14 golds and 46 medals in total.
Disappointing showings in cycling and swimming have hit their tally in London, with Anna Meares' sprint title on Tuesday their only win in the Velodrome. "That's pretty good I reckon," a defensive Pearson countered of her country's four gold medals.
"Not many countries can get four. "How many have we got, like 24, 25 medals? Me and Anna Meares did that in Beijing. We both got a silver medal and now we've both got a gold medal. "Four gold medals, I mean we're definitely going to get more than that and we're working our way up that medal tally. It's going to be great."
Asked whether she would be present to defend her title in the Rio Games scheduled for 2016, Pearson said: "I wouldn't have a clue. I'm just going to go and have a cheeseburger now."
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