Jacob Despard attempts back to back titles

Date: 12th April 2019

Reigning champion Jacob Despard, with a handicap of 0.75m, is the 2019 backmarker for the Men’s 120m Open and quietly confident he could become only the second back to back winner of the Stawell Gift.

“I believe I’ve done the work and improved a lot since last season,” said Jacob, adding that he is looking forward to coming back and experiencing his favourite meeting for the year as defending champion. “Training is the best it’s ever been and I’m tracking to really turn the heat up on Easter Monday and defend my title.” 

 “I’d comfortably say I’m the quickest guy in the field so I’m ready for the challenge. When I was younger as soon as the marks would come out I’d search through and see who the back mark was, and look up to that person over the weekend. Now I am that person.” 

Last year’s favourite to take the famous 120m Open Gift, Jacob described his win as “pretty unbelievable” and something he has wanted since his first visit to the iconic event at Central Park, Stawell in 2013.

Despard, who recorded a personal best time of 10.40 over 100m at the Sydney Track Classic last month, is not fazed by being the backmarker. 

“One advantage I’ll have over most of the field is having won before, I’ll be starting behind them and they all have to run scared knowing I’ll be coming at the end.  I’m already in front mentally.” 

Jacob rates Josh Ross’s chances, along with Jason Bailey and Queenslander Jayden Gilfillan, as the ones to challenge him for the title in 2019.  However, if he can pull it off Jacob will join the great Bill Howard who took consecutive wins in 1966 and 1967.

Coach Scott Rowsell believes that the Men’s Open will be really close this year, and while Jacob has a pretty tough handicap, he runs particularly well on grass and is confident on the big stage.  “It will obviously be a lot tougher this year but Jacob is quietly confident he can get the job done” said Scott.

Rowsell also has the backmarker for the Women’ s Gift with Maddie Coates starting off -1m, and another young athlete who could be in the mix – Jara Konteh (5.5m) – a previous World Juniors contendee and Keilor Gift winner.


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