Luke Houlihan can’t wait for Stawell after ‘empty’ 2020 season

Date: 23rd March 2021

“There’s a three-word phrase that has been passed through generations of athletes. It carries immense weight and prestige. That phrase is ‘Stawell Gift Final’.” So believes Luke Houlihan who would like to go one step further than his 2nd place in the 2015 Stawell Gift Final, this year.

“It’s a sprinter’s dream to be a part of Australian sporting history and to be added to the list of Stawell Gift Champions. I think it’s as simple as that,” summed up Luke.

The South Australian is favoured to take out the Powercor Stawell Gift Men’s Open this year. Luke is the 2021 Castlemaine Gift Champion as well as a Bay Sheffield Finalist from 2014, 2015 and 2019.  He is itching to get back to Stawell after the events of last year.

“The cancellation of events in 2020 was a real low point. We train to compete and we love competing! Our season felt empty without the grand event which is the Stawell Gift.”

“Athlete’s preparation for these events begins months and years prior. So planning ahead for coming seasons while facing uncertainty of further cancellations was equally as challenging.”    

Luke found that living in Adelaide meant he and his squad were fortunate to have minimal lockdowns and restrictions “compared to our Victorian and NSW neighbours.”

“Thanks to my squad mate Jordan Tronnolone I was lucky to get my hands on a decent home gym setup. This was a huge help through winter while most gyms were closed in Adelaide. I didn’t miss out on much training. 

Luke’s team is based at the Flinders Athletics Club. “My coach is the great Anthony Tohl. ‘Tohly’ is the 1981 Bay Sheffield Champion and moved on to coaching after his brilliant running career. His success in coaching has spanned two decades.”

Luke is quick to point out the success of his teammates.  “We have seen a great deal of success over the past couple of seasons in particular with Sam Laucirica being awarded Sprinter of the Year by the SAAL, Hudson Siegfried winning the 2020 Keith Patching 70m and the Bay Sheffield 70m, and James Bayliss the 2020 Bay Sheffield Champion.” 

When he is not training, the 29-year-old works in the hospitality industry. “Outside of running, which takes up most of my time, I love drinking wine with my mates and spending time with my niece and nephew.

Could it be Luke’s time to be added to the list of Stawell Gift champions? 

“My goal with athletics has always been to find the limits of my body. I’m just going to continue to find and push those limits.”  

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