Ballarat Matt wins dramatic Stawell Gift

Date: 9th April 2012

Twenty-year-old business sports management student Matthew Wiltshire from Ballarat has won the 2012 Australia Post Stawell Gift.

Douglas Greenough from East Bentleigh was second, with AFL boundary umpire Adam Coote of Elwood third.

Running from a mark of 8 metres, Wiltshire won by a tenth of a second in 12.22 seconds, fulfilling his family’s dream of winning the iconic 120m footrace. His grandfather, John, had been in the best form of his life leading in to the 1958 Stawell Gift, but pulled his hamstring in the heats.

“He talked to me yesterday and told me ‘do your best, that’s all that you can do,’” said the younger Wiltshire

“I can’t imagine how happy he is. Every time I’ve see him I tear up because I know how much it means to him.”

John Wiltshire said he was proud of his grandson’s achievement but talked down his influence.

“I kept right out of it. He’s got a good trainer in Peter O’Dwyer and you can’t be interfering in that sort of stuff,” he said.

O’Dwyer himself was competing at Stawell for the 25th time, and used his own performance as a yardstick for his young charge’s success.

“Last year he won the Bill Howard 100m, so we knew that he was capable of winning this,” said O’Dwyer.

“When I went out and ran 12.28 in the heats, and having trialled alongside him with a 5 metre start and him beating me, I knew he was going to win.”

Wiltshire was the equal favourite prior to the running of the heats on Friday, yet his victory was far from assured during the three days of the Easter carnival.

Doncaster’s Josh Tiu progressed through the heats with the fastest time before being eliminated at the semi-final stage in dramatic fashion by flamboyant sprinter John Steffensen. Steffensen, and then Tiu, false-started and were penalised one metre from their handicap. Despite the penalty the 2006 Commonwealth Games 400m champion, was cool under pressure and ran to victory in the fastest semi-final time of 12.14.

As a result he was installed as a short-price favourite with the bookmakers prior to the final at $1.30. However, fate intervened, with injury thwarting his chances of taking away the $40,000 winner’s cheque.

A shattered Steffensen said he felt his hamstring tighten and then cramp during the final and had no choice but to pull up to protect it ahead of the London Olympics.

“I felt a bit of tightness halfway through and then felt it get even tighter,” said Steffensen, who immediately departed to Melbourne for scans.

Steffensen is due to compete as part of an Australian 4x400m quartet in Philadelphia on April 28 in an attempt to qualify the team for the Olympic Games.

Running from scratch, 2010 Australian 100m champion Melissa Breen collected her second sash of the weekend in winning the State of Victoria Strickland Family Women’s 120m Gift in 13.95 seconds, having won the Driscoll, McIllree & Dickinson Fashions on the Field on Saturday.

Jamaican 4x100m relay world record holder Michael Frater impressively took out the XXXX GOLD Backmarkers Invitation over 120m in 12.30 seconds. The 29-year-old narrowly missed a place in the final of the Australia Post Stawell Gift in a desperately close photo-finish in semi one with eventual second placegetter Douglas Greenough.

In other results Brady Threlfall held off Australian Olympian Jeff Riseley to win the Retravision Herb Hedemann 1600m whilst Gippsland Gift champion Alex Carew won the Stawell Golf Mines Gift Winners’ 120m.

Other winners were:

  • Andrew Campbell in the Asics Bill McManus Backmarkers 400m;
  • Tara Domaschenz in the Endura Sports Nutrition Lorraine Donnan Women’s 400m;
  • Shane Buckingham in the Redvys Cooper Memorial Jack Donaldson 200m;
  • Daniel Lawlor in the Northern Grampians Shire Council 800m;
  • Jesse Simpson in the RACV 120m Series;
  • Julie Torrini in the Veterans’ 300m;
  • Emily Bertacco in the McDonalds Little Athletics 400m;
  • Andrew Reddie in the Thirsty Camel Grampians Backmarkers 3200m;
  • Phillip Brown in the Stawell Times News Wimmera and Horsham Football Leagues’ 120m;
  • Jack Hockley-Samon in the McDonalds Little Athletics 1600m;
  • Bradey Shutz in the Stawell Family Central Park Frontmarkers 400m;
  • Phil Noden in the Stawell Athletics Club Frontmarkers 3200m; and
  • Ian Hinton in the Keith Hayes Memorial Bill Howard 100m.

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