Wiltshire back to eye Gift Winners’ Gift

Date: 21st March 2013

Defending Australia Post Stawell Gift champion Matthew Wiltshire is eagerly awaiting the chance to return to the stomping ground that twelve months ago changed his life.

Wiltshire, who took out the 131st running of the Australia Post Stawell Gift from 8m, has been pulled back approximately 4m (taking into account the field lift for Asafa Powell) to start at 5.5m for the 2013 Gift making back-to back victories a tough task.

But in a reward for his efforts he will line up in the Stawell Gold Mines Gift Winners’ Gift which brings together the in-form athletes of the year in a final battle for supremacy.

“I think it is a really exciting concept the Gift Winners Gift. It’s pretty much the best runners from the whole year’s Gifts having it out against each other, so it’s going to be a very high class field,” Wiltshire said.

“I know Josh Ross and a few of the other guys in it are in red hot form so it’ll be a tough one, but hopefully I go alright in it in case I don’t go too well in the Gift.

“In the Gift I have been pulled nearly 4m back from what I was last year so it’s going to be tough.  I don’t think I have made 4m up in form, but I’ll still give it a red hot crack and hopefully get through to a semi final and after then you never know what could happen.”

Wiltshire and Ross, who won the Bay Sheffield in South Australia off scratch in December, will be joined by Joel Bee (Maryborough), Glen Ross (Ballarat), Cole Unasa (Stonnington), Shane Ezard (Albury/Wodonga), Dean Scarff (Queanbeyean, NSW) and Jacob Despard (Burnie, TAS).

“Providing the opportunity for these first class athletes to compete against each other in Stawell is an absolute coup. They are all pumped, looking forward to the challenge and to the whole Gift event” said Troy Cole from Stawell Gold Mines who sponsor the race.

“These guys all had it on their radar before they were even invited. The Stawell Gold Mines Gift Winners’ Gift is the best of the best from Australian Gifts who vie for the opportunity to compete.”

For Wiltshire, this Easter weekend is going to be a special one, and one of the more enjoyable ones.

“There will be a lot less pressure this year. I will definitely enjoy the weekend a lot more and soak up the atmosphere,” the 21-year-old from Ballarat said.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in, the whole Stawell Gift winning feeling.  I think that this weekend is really going to make me appreciate how big the actual event is and what an honour it is.

“It is ridiculous how much the Stawell Gift does change your life. Just the people that now know who you are, that come up and talk to you and the contacts you make from doing it. I have been doing a lot of guest speaking and motivational speaking things – it really is a life changer that helps you out in every aspect of life.”

The prospect of running against the fastest man ever to run at Stawell, Asafa Powell, further sweetens the weekend for Wiltshire.

“It shows you how big Stawell is with a former world record holder coming to run in the event,” Wiltshire said.

“It is going to be a great experience just to get to watch him run in person let alone the potential opportunity to race him in the backmarkers.  Getting into the blocks knowing that you have Asafa Powell breathing down your neck would be a pretty thrilling feeling.”

The 2013 Australia Post Stawell Gift carnival will be held from Friday, 29 March and will conclude on Monday, 1 April.

The carnival kicks off with the Calcutta on Friday night and is followed by three days of thrilling racing, including the Driscoll McIllree and Dickinson Ladies Day and Family Day, all culminating in the 132nd running of the Australia Post Stawell Gift on Easter Monday.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.

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