Stawell Backmarkers to honour Chris Perry

Date: 19th February 2013

The Stawell Athletic Club will rename the Backmarkers Invitation Handicap in honour of 1982 Gift winner Chris Perry.

Perry tragically passed away in October last year at the young age of 53.

The 120m Backmarkers Invitation Handicap event has been won by some of the fastest sprinters on the planet, including 2012 champion Michael Frater, who went on to be a member of the world record breaking Jamaican 4x100m team at the London Olympic Games.

The event will here-on-in be known as the Chris Perry Memorial Backmarkers Invitation and is currently sponsored by XXXX Gold.

Perry was not only a revered winner at Central Park and an Australian Championship medallist, but he was also a central figure affecting major changes in Australian track and field in the mid eighties when the then highly controversial decision was made to open up the sport to all athletes – both amateur and professional.

Prior to 1984, athletes who had raced for monetary prizes were ineligible to compete in Australian championships or to represent their country.

When the then board of Athletics Australia, at the urging of key figures in the professional ranks, took the unexpected decision in 1984 to make domestic athletics completely open, the ball was placed firmly in the court of the athletes to react.

Perry was one of the trailblazers, if not the leader of the pack.

In 1986 Chris Perry made history, becoming the first Stawell Gift champion to win a national championship medal – silver in the 100m.  When selected in the 1986 Commonwealth Games team he became the first Stawell Gift winner to represent Australia at a major international championship.

Following his retirement from athletics, Chris maintained a strong relationship with the sport, becoming a popular figure in Australian athletics, a president of the Victorian Athletics League and a regular and welcome visitor to Stawell. He also took up a role as commentator for the Easter Carnival – a position he held for more than 15 years.

Scottney Hayter, president of the Stawell Athletic Clubs hopes the renaming of the Backmarkers Invitation will further cement the legacy of Chris, along with inspiring future and current athletes through Chris’ remarkable story.

“Chris was not just a great friend of the club but such an important part of the Gift’s memoirs that we thought it fitting his name be further entrenched in Stawell history,” Hayter said.

“Renaming a classic event such as the Backmarkers Invitation Handicap after Chris seems like one appropriate way to ensure he has a continued presence at the Stawell Gift, along with paying our respects to Chris, his wife Shirley and son Thomas.”

Perry’s widow, Shirley Granger was deeply touched by the Stawell Athletic Club’s gesture. “Chris loved Stawell. It was essentially the launching pad for his whole career and he never forgot that. He loved returning to Stawell, catching up with fellow athletes and more recently, helping to commentate. We are honoured that the race has been renamed to remember him.”

In 2012 the Backmarkers Invitation Handicap was won by Jamaican 4x100m relay world record holder Michael Frater, who blitzed the 120m foot race in an impressive 12.30 seconds.

The upcoming Australia Post Stawell Gift will be held over the Easter long weekend from March 29 to April 1, 2013.

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