Date: 23rd February 2016

Australian Olympians, Melissa Breen and Lauren Wells have confirmed they will be returning to compete at the 2016 Woolworths Stawell Gift carnival.

Australia’s fastest woman Melissa Breen experienced a year of two contrasts in 2015 by winning the women’s 100m final at the Australian Athletics Championships. Breen admitted she was unable to continue her strong domestic form leading to a disappointing performance at the IAAF World Championship in Beijing.

“I’ve worked really hard and smart since returning from Beijing and I’m looking forward to what 2016 holds”, she says.

Breen is determined to give the Gift another go, after being unable to advance to the final in last year’s Australia Post Women’s Gift.

“The Stawell Gift is always a challenge, but it’s also such an honour to run from scratch.”

“I’m looking forward to embracing the Stawell spirit once again this year”, Breen said.

Last year’s carnival saw a significant milestone with prize money for the Australia Post Women’s Gift equalling that of the Woolworths Stawell Gift for the first time in the history of the event.

Wells, Australia’s 400m hurdles champion, returns from an athletically strong year, winning her eighth National 400m hurdles title, automatically qualifying her for 2016 Rio Olympics.

“The Stawell Gift carnival is always a special event in my eyes; the history and prestige associated with it makes for a great weekend”, says Wells.

Last year saw the 27-year old entering the Australia Post Women’s Gift in strong form, clocking a semi-final time only two thousandths of a second slower than race winner Grace O’Dwyer.

Wells says the Gift is a fierce competition, enhancing her eagerness her to win.

“I am always excited to compete at Stawell and this year is no different. I am undecided as to what events I will compete in this year, as Easter is just before our National Championships, which also doubles as the Selection Trials for the Olympic Games.”

“I am still chasing my first sash at Stawell and am just as determined as any other year”, she says.

Australia Post General Manager of Human Resources Catherine Walsh said, “We are thrilled to welcome Mel and Lauren back to compete in this year’s Australia Post Women’s Gift. We are passionate about diversity and empowering women in sport, and both athletes represent strong Australian role models for all young women.”

Coach Matt Beckenham is confident both athletes are in top form to compete at this year’s event but is wary of the girls’ exposure and the difficulty their marks may create.

“Both Lauren and Melissa are in great shape and will be running their heart out at Stawell. Handicap racing is always tough and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

The Woolworths Stawell Gift Carnival kicks off with the Calcutta on Friday, March 25 followed by three days of thrilling action, culminating the 135th running of the Woolworths Stawell Gift.


Lauren Wells

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