Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 30th March 2013
An injury-scare to Asafa Powell provided a dramatic start to the 132nd edition of the Australia Post Stawell Gift.
The former world 100m record-holder placed third in his heat recording 12.32 seconds following a last minute decision to race after hamstring tightness threatened to force his withdrawal from Australia’s richest and most famous footrace.
The pre-heat $5 favourite with the bookmakers only qualified for Monday’s semi-finals as one of the fastest 20 non-winning times.
The quickest time of the 22 heats went to former winner Mitchell Williams-Swain who clocked 12.08s from his mark of 4.5m in the cool, windy and at times drizzly conditions. The Queenslander, who survived a hamstring injury of his own to win in 2011, will attempt to become only the fourth two-time winner of the event.
Meanwhile, another former Stawell champion, two-time winner Joshua Ross, showed he can be a factor on Monday, cruising to the easiest of heats wins.
The presence of Powell, a three-time Olympic 100m finalist, had the Stawell crowd buzzing and the Jamaican, despite feeling leg tightness during his warm-up did not want to disappoint his fans. “At one point I didn’t want to risk it but everyone was so excited to see me run.”
Powell’s leg problems became apparent as his normal fast start eluded him and he struggled to catch the frontmarkers.
Immediately following the race, he conceded a hamstring injury would force his withdrawal from the semi-finals. “No I definitely can’t run. The hammy is giving me some problems. It wouldn’t be fair for me to go out there and push it.”
However, after receiving treatment, assistant coach Aundre Edwards confirmed the leg problems weren’t as serious as initially thought. “Right now he is just tight. There is no injury to the hamstring. He just didn’t want to risk pushing too hard. ”
“The physio is looking at him and we are waiting to see. Nothing has been ruled out so far. We’ll take it day by day,” said Edwards.
To complicate matters, withdrawing from Monday’s semi-finals risks incurring a 28 day suspension under Victorian Athletic League rules, potentially ruling him out of next Saturday’s Qantas Melbourne World Challenge at Lakeside.
Powell will receive further treatment tonight and test the hamstring again tomorrow before making a final decision as to whether he will take his place on the start line for the semi-finals on Monday.
Williams-Swain, anticipating another chance at winning the $40,000 prize purse on offer for the winner, declared “I can’t wait. I’ve been waiting for this event all year. It’s the best event on the track.”
“My preparation this year has been way better. No injuries. So I’m going to come out this year faster than I have before,” said Williams-Swain who attempts to join Joshua Ross (2003 & 2005), Barry Foley (1970/72) and Bill Howard (1966/67) as the only two-time winners of the event.
Ross (off 1m) looked confident taking out his heat to record 12.49s and believes he is a strong chance to become the only man to wear the Stawell Gift winners sash three-times.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m really happy to be in the semi-finals. I believe I’ve got a good chance to do this. I told my coach I wanted to shut down with 30m to go in the heat, shut down with 20m to go in the semi and smash the final.”
A year after heart surgery to repair a leaky valve, Bentleigh’s Simon Jackson (11.75m) recorded the day’s second-fastest time of 12.10s.
19 year-old Queenslander Isaac Dunmall, running off 10.5m was third-fastest in 12.12s whilst Redan’s Shane Woodrow (12m) confirmed his status as a heavily-backed pre-race favourite in the betting ($5.50), with 12.15s the fourth-fastest time of the day.
Earlier, the Official Supporters Club Stawell Frontmarkers 1600m was the first final decided for the three-day carnival and South Australian Gaetano Aiello running off 345m took line honours in 4.00.86s.
The Stawell Gift Hall of Fame Backmarkers 1600m was won by Essendon’s Adrian Phelan (115m) in 4.01.53s.
Emily Robertson (72m) from Wantirna South was victorious in the ANZ Women’s Handicap 800m in 2.03.32s.
In a glimpse to the future Adam Gec was a jubilant winner of the McDonalds Little Athletics Handicap 800m in 2.04.23s.
Perennial Stawell Gift carnival favourite, Tamsyn Manou running at Central Park for the 17th and final time, ensured it will be a memorable one after winning her heat of the State of Victoria Strickland Family Women’s Gift and earning a spot in Monday’s semi-finals and is a chance to score a second victory in the event.
The trying conditions couldn’t hold back the fashionistas as Cara White’s crocheted off-white dress and matching hat took out the Driscoll, McIllree & Dickinson Fashions on the Field Parade. Best hat of the day was won by Stephanie Jinks. Christopher Hargreaves, forced out of the Gift with an achilles injury, showed he was just as talented off the track winning the Stawell Dry Cleaners Men’s Fahsions of the Field with a smart dark-grey suit and weather-smart umbrella complimented by a dazzling pink tie.
Posted by Hopwood Wendy
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