Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 6th March 2017
MEDIA RELEASE: Versace the new Patron for Stawell Gift
DATE: 1 March 2017
The Stawell Athletic Club have named Luke Versace as their next club patron, just the third in the clubs long history.
“I was blown away to be asked to be the patron of the club, understanding the history of the gift of what it means to Stawell, Victoria and other parts of Australia.
“My family and I see it as an honour for all us of and it was quite unexpected. When I found out the people who were patron before me, I felt quite embarrassed,” Versace said.
Olympic finalist and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Merv Lincoln was the clubs first patron, accepting the role in 1994 after the club felt that a suitable Patron for the club would be beneficial. The main requirements being they had strong ties with Stawell and the Stawell Gift and of course carried the necessary ambassadorial qualities.
Hailing from the John Landy and Herb Elliot era, Lincoln was a world class miler, becoming the 11th man in history to break the elusive 4min barrier. His career best of 3:55.9 was set in Dublin in 1958.
Raised in Wodonga, where locals will be familiar with the Lincoln Causeway which was named after him, Lincoln was a teacher at the Stawell High School. He also trained on Central Park in the lead up to his final at the Melbourne 1956 Olympics.
In 2001 he reluctantly stood down as Patron to the Stawell Athletic Club due to the ill health of his wife, passing the mantle to William Earle who was a student at Stawell High School while Lincoln taught there.
Earle was an outstanding sprinter & represented Australia in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a member of the 4×100 metres relay team.
He remains the only Olympian to have hailed from Stawell.
The Earle family have a long association with the Stawell Gift.
In 1922 “Darby” Earle, the proprietor of the Albion hotel donated a gold medal to the winner of the Gift. After his death his son Bill carried on the tradition which is now being continued by William & his sisters Sonia & Kerrie. Sonia was the first female to serve on the SAC committee
Club President Neil Blizzard thanked the former patron William Earle for his service & dedication over the last 15 years, Earle indicated that he felt that it was time that passed on the honour & the club felt that Luke Versace was the ideal replacement because of his enthusiasm & dedication to the club.
Versace is a colorful character who was lucky to run at all. He ran third in the 2005 Stawell Gift final behind Joshua Ross who famously won from the scratch mark.
2013 saw him under performing and overweight but determination to give it one last shot saw him shed 12 kilos in readiness for his tilt at the 2014 Stawell Gift title.
With history running through his veins, he lined up as the front marker in the final off the outmark of 10m.
“To win the gift was something I always dreamed about and cherished but to be given this honour is something that in many ways is greater than winning gift,” Versace added.
Running in the black, the then 31 year old held on to win by just 5/1000ths of a second, one of the closest finishes in the events 135 year history. Immediately after the race he retired, stating “I will never ever sprint again. I am more than happy to live off this for a lifetime.”
Three years on and Versace is now the Stawell Athletic Clubs third Patron.
“When they told me who I was taking over from the gravity of the appointment really hit me. Hopefully I can represent the Stawell Gift with distinction and continue to help keep it a major Australian sporting event for generations to come,” he declared.
The 2017 Stawell Easter Gift runs from Saturday 15 – Monday 17 April. Grab your tickets now at stawellgift.com.
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Posted by Hopwood Wendy
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