Interstate success at Stawell Gift
Runners from opposite ends of the country are celebrating wins in Australia’s richest footrace after wowing a big Central Park crowd with their performances at this year’s Stawell Gift carnival.
Tasmanian Jacob Despard claimed the Stawell Gift and Queenslander and fellow 21-year-old Elizabeth Forsyth clinched a Stawell Women’s Gift.
Despard, running off 4.5 metres, was favourite for the final, having recorded the fastest time of 12.214 seconds in heats on Saturday and 12.236 in his semi-final.
He eventually won the final in a time of 12.121 from Hamish Adams, 12.212, and Gary Fenegan, 12.294. Reigning champion Matt Rizzo was fourth.
Forsyth, off seven metres, stormed home on the grass track to win the Women’s Gift in 13.685.
She hit the tape ahead of Pam Austin, 13.964, and Stephanie Jinks, 13.971.
Forsyth, who had a dramatic tumble after crossing the line in the final, said after the race that she could not believe she had won.
“I really didn’t think it would happen. I am beyond happy to be the Stawell Gift winner, it is the greatest achievement of my athletics career so far and I imagine it may just be for the rest of my life,” she said.
The Griffith University sports science student was running in her second Stawell carnival.
Despard has been training under coach Scott Rowsell since moving to Melbourne less than six months ago.
“I just moved out of home and that’s a big expense, I’ll save some but I love cars, so I might put a bit of prize money into my car,” he said.
“This is the sixth time I’ve been to Stawell. I was originally in the team when Andrew Robinson won and that fired me up, then in 2015 I made the semis but lost to Murray Goodwin who went on to win. This is a fantastic next step in my athletics career.”
Despard said he planned to return to defend his title next year and would continue to return.
“Short term I will fly to the Bunbury Gift in Western Australia next month with some of the Commonwealth Games athletes coming so that will be competitive. Then for the next 12 months I will be really pushing for the Australian team,” he said.
Both runners pocketed $40,000 for their respective wins.
Carnival racing was far from confined to the gift events.
Runners, ranging from national professionals to Little Athletics youngsters, competed in a variety of events in sprint, middle and long distance events across three days of competition.
Detailed results are available online at www. stawellgift.com/on-the-track/results-2018/