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LONDON (Reuters) - World champion Sally Pearson won the women's 100 meters hurdles in a thrilling blanket finish to give Australia their first gold medal in athletics at the London Olympics on Tuesday.
The dominant sprint hurdler of the last two years, Pearson was hot favorite to win gold to add to the silver she won in Beijing four years ago.
The 25-year-old led from the start but Americans Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells pushed her all the way and it was the Australian's low dip as she crossed the line in 12.35 seconds that won her gold.
Pearson faced a nervous wait before her name flashed up on the scoreboard and collapsed in a ball on the track in delight when her victory in an Olympic record time was confirmed.
"It's a dream," she told reporters. "Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock. I'm just going through the emotions. I really wanted this.
"I didn't realize how close Dawn was until the end. I said in my head, 'please don't let this happen, I need this'. I never let anything stop me from doing what I want to do."
Defending champion Harper took silver in 12.37 and Wells won bronze in 12.48, both athletes running personal bests.
"I am happy to win a silver, there was so much pressure on me," said Harper.
"I couldn't feel her, it was so close crossing the line and I just didn't know what had happened."
Pearson got a big hug from Wells and another from her coach of 14 years Sharon Hannan before draping herself in her country's flag for her lap of honor.
It was a first gold medal on the athletics track for Australia since Cathy Freeman won the 400 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Although her mother is English, Pearson describes herself as very much a "true blue Aussie" and her gold medal will provide a much-needed boost for her country after a disappointing first 10 days of the Games.
Americans finished second, third and fourth with Lolo Jones, who tripped on a hurdle when leading in the final at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, the only one to miss out on a medal.
"I am pleased to say at least I can lift my head up a little bit higher when I tell my kids their mom ran in the Olympics," she said. "It won't be a bittersweet memory. At least this time it was a clean smooth race. I just wish I had a better result."
Editing by Ed Osmond