EXCLUSIVE: Sally Pearson on her Dancing with the Stars experience

"This was harder than the Olympics."
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Champion Aussie athlete Sally Pearson can still remember how many paces to take in between hurdles, but these days, the retired queen of the track can be found counting the steps needed for the cha-cha-cha.

Swapping her running spikes for dance heels, the Olympic gold medallist
is thrilled to be taking part in the new season of Dancing with the Stars

Sally, 36, says she is eager to prove she’s more than just a running machine.

WATCH: First look at Dancing with the Stars 2023. Article continues after video.

“I get to fulfil one of my lifelong dreams! I’ll let you in on a secret … I’ve wanted to be a part of [the show] since 2004 when it first began,” Sally tells New Idea from her Gold Coast home ahead of her toe-tapping debut this week on the Channel Seven reality series.

“If someone five years ago told me I’d be dancing on national TV in front of
a live audience, I would’ve laughed in their face.”

Arguably one of the world’s greatest-ever track and field athletes, ‘Sal’,
as she loves to be called, has never been more confident in her own skin.

From the track to the dance floor! (Credit: New Idea)

Raised by single mum Anne, the double Olympic medallist married her
high school sweetheart Kieran in 2010. The couple share two children, Ruby, who is turning three, and Harry, nine months.

“I realised early on that I was made for motherhood – there’s no time to sweat the small stuff, which has helped me immensely since retiring from professional sport in 2019,” Sally explains.

“Ruby has told everyone down at the local park that mummy is in Sydney dancing in a shiny green dress – I think she’s more impressed I can
cha-cha-cha than she is with my Olympic gold medal from the London 2012 Games!”

Which begs the question: has Sally turned into a bit of a dance mum?

Sally hits the dance floor with her partner Mitch this week. (Credit: New Idea)

“Technically, yes, I am one, but I’m so chilled – so long as she’s having
fun and loving life, then I’m happy.”

These days Sally, who admits she’s often been misunderstood as “a bit stand-offish”, is no longer afraid of “giving everything a good crack”.

So, when she was approached early last year by Seven to step into the primetime sports presenter role on the local Gold Coast news alongside veteran presenters Amanda Abate and Steve Titmus, Sally didn’t hesitate to get in front of the camera!

“I was terrified – it was worse than being on the start line at my first Olympic final at the 2008 Beijing Games,” she remembers.

“Please don’t ask me to look back at the tape of my first night – it was a train wreck.

“Steve, being the dad of Olympic swimming superstar Ariarne, he understood me from the beginning, and between he and Amanda, I’ve gained so much more confidence.”

New Idea granted Delta Amidzovski’s wish to meet her idol! (Credit: New Idea)

In the lead-up to her dancing debut this week, Sally says so far, she’s injury-free after being paired with young gun pro dancer Mitchell Kirkby. At 27, Mitch is also making his DWTS debut!

“We spent six hours a day practising for weeks – he’s incredibly patient,” Sally tells us.

“Dancing brought something out in me that I feel I lost from my years in athletics.

“While the training is very different, it’s also not dissimilar in that every single move requires impeccable timing, along with plenty of spills –
let’s see if the judges think we’ve done enough.

“I’ve been lucky that Kieran, who runs his own plumbing business, could look after the kids while I’ve been able to chase my dreams.

“And we all get on, so anyone expecting a saucy scandal, sorry to disappoint, but this is set to be G-rated entertainment all the way.

“I’ve become good mates with Pia [Miranda],” Sal continues. “She’s just a great woman and us both being mums and away from our families, we might’ve shared a couple of cheeky gin and tonics after rehearsals!”

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