Pole vault prodigy keen to win him­self back-to-back gifts

Geraldton Guardian - - Sport - Vic­tor Tanti

De­fend­ing LiveLighter Mullewa Gift cham­pion Sasha Zhoya aims to go back-to-back to­mor­row.

The 15-year-old was un­der-14 world pole vault and 110m hur­dles cham­pion and holds the na­tional un­der-16 200m and un­der-17 110m hur­dles and pole vault ti­tles.

Last year he won the gift off a 13.5m hand­i­cap — zoom­ing home in 12.65 sec­onds.

Zhoya also won the 70m sprint and the 120m Novice.

“I'll be happy if I make the gift fi­nals — any­thing more would be a bonus be­cause there’s many top sprint­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing,” Zhoya said.

Zhoya, whose mother Cather­ine lived in Mo­rawa for sev­eral years, re­gards sprint­ing as a key part of his skill set.

“Tal­ent is one thing but tal­ent only is not enough — you need to train hard and be fully com­mit­ted," Zhoya said. “Sprint­ing is an in­te­gral part of my train­ing but also I am not yet spe­cial­is­ing and want to keep all op­tions open.”

In com­par­i­son, Adri­aan Pelser is bat­tling his body to be at his best but can’t be dis­counted for a third ti­tle. He was the gift’s youngest win­ner in 2013 at 13 and the fifth dual win­ner in 2015.

“My body isn’t how I want it to be for Mullewa,” Pelser said.

“I have tight and sore mus­cles but I’m do­ing what I can.

“To win Mullewa three times is def­i­nitely a mo­ti­va­tion — though I al­ways re­mind my­self that to give my best is im­por­tant, win­ning or not.”

Af­ter be­ing in­jured last year in the gift’s pre­lim­i­nar­ies when in hot form, Pelser strug­gled.

“Af­ter that in­jury, I had a bad sea­son; and dur­ing my re­cov­ery have learned about pa­tience, fol­low­ing the physio’s and my coach’s ad­vice and to lis­ten to my body,” he said.

“I’ve had to work hard over win­ter to get stronger and faster.”

Other con­tenders in­clude 2003 and 2006 win­ner Evan Jarvis and Kobi Nichols who has ev­ery chance of be­ing the fifth fe­male cham­pion.

Kiara Red­dingius is an­other but her spe­cialty is the 550m hand­i­cap which she has won three times.

Bar­rie Ker­naghan, now 77, will be a crowd favourite and off a 40m start, can’t be ig­nored as he showed in 2014 when plac­ing run­ner-up.

The sprints, which are part of the 84th Mullewa Show, start at mid­day, with the gift fi­nal at 3.40pm.

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