Tiu good, Josh fastest qualifier for Gift semis

Date: 7th April 2012

An engineering student, a school teacher and an AFL boundary umpire have produced the three fastest heat times of the 131st edition of the Australia Post Stawell Gift.

The Gift field is one of the closest in recent years, with only 0.15 seconds separating the ten fastest winning heat times over the 120 metre distance.

Post graduate engineering student Josh Tiu, running off a handicap of 10.75m, was the fastest of the day, winning his heat by three metres in a relaxed 12.15 seconds.

A finalist in the 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift, 22-year-old Tiu is confident of his chances for Monday’s semi-final and final, where $40,000 is on the line for the winner.

“I felt pretty comfortable in that race,” Tiu said, stating his previous Gift final experience would be beneficial come Monday.

“It gives you a really good feel for the atmosphere and makes you a bit more confident.”

School teacher Kevin Brittain(6.75m), who has made the Gift final the past two years, held off Jamaica’s 4x100m world record holder Michael Frater in the final heat to record the second fastest time of the day with a 12.20 second run.

“Once I got to 40 metres I got going and tried to stay relaxed because I knew Frater would be coming,” Brittain said.

Frater, who competed from scratch, enjoyed his first experience of running in a handicapped Gift.

“I think I ran a very good race,” he said.

“When you see how far ahead those guys are, I tried to be patient, but the line was coming up pretty quickly.”

With his 12.35 second performance Frater progresses to Monday’s semi-finals with the 17th fastest time.

After officiating Thursday night, AFL boundary umpire Adam Coote ran a swift 12.21 seconds to take out his heat from the limit mark of 11 metres.

“I’ve got a little bit of soreness. I boundary umpired the Carlton-Brisbane match on Thursday night up at the Gabba in hot conditions,” Coote said.

“I’ll be putting the legs up tomorrow and will hopefully be fresher on Monday.

“The AFL have been really supportive. They know that pro running is a big part of my pre-season for footy.”

Pre-race favourite Matthew Wiltshire took out his heat in 12.21 seconds, with his coach, Peter O’Dwyer, also winning his heat with a run of 12.28 seconds in his 25th appearance in the Gift.

Strong performances were also recorded from 2009 Gift winner Aaron Stubbs, and former Commonwealth Games 400m champion John Steffensen, who won their respective heats in 12.29s and 12.30s.

Former 100m world champion Kim Collins was less fortunate, missing a semi-final berth despite finishing second in his heat in 12.56 seconds.

Wearing a stunning black and emerald ensemble, 2010 national 100m champion Melissa Breen took out the Driscoll, McIllree & Dickinson Fashions on the Field Parade, having earlier won heats of the Gift Hotel Arthur Postle 70m and State of Victoria Strickland Family Women’s Gift.

Ballarat’s Kathryn O’Dwyer was awarded second place and Samantha Sammut third, while Marlene Erard won best hat. Ascot Vale’s Tom Kelly was the winner of the men’s Fashion on the Field.

Over 1600m, Trent Lowry (135m, Geelong) won the Waack’s Bakery Stawell Backmarkers Handicap and Craig Harris (185m, Blackburn)  the Official Supporters Club Stawell Frontmarkers Handicap.

In 800m races, Lisa Roberts (124m, South Australia) won the Stawell Medical Centre Women’s Handicap while Liam Procaccino (82m, Ballarat) won the McDonald’s Little Athletics Handicap.

The Australia Post Stawell Gift continues tomorrow with Family Day, with the semi-finals and final of the Gift to be held on Easter Monday and telecast live on Network Ten from noon.

The Favourites

Odds immediately following the heats

Joshua Tiu                   10.75m            $2.25

Matthew Wiltshire      8m                   $3

Kevin Brittain              6.75m              $4

Adam Coote                11m                 $5

Shaun Hargreaves       8.25m              $6

Paul Tancredi              9.25m              $6

Notable others

Aaron Stubbs               4.75m              $12

Michael Frater            Scratch            $14

John Steffensen           6m                   $21

For full results and photos from today’s action, visit www.stawellgift.com

The action continues at Central Park tomorrow for Family Day – racing on the track commences at 10:15am along with plenty of fun children’s activities including the Little Athletics Clinic run by the Australia’s top athletes at 9:30am.

The Australia Post Stawell Gift semi-finals (12:40pm) and the 131st running of the Gift final (2:45pm) headline a packed day of finals racing action on Monday.

For those who can’t make it to Central Park this Easter, tune into the live broadcast on ONE from midday to 3pm on Easter Monday.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.stawellgift.com or at the gate.

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