2021 – After the cancellation of the 2020 carnival, the 2021 Powercor Stawell Gift is back better than ever

Date: 12th April 2022

To complete our countdown to the 140th running of the Powercor Stawell Gift, the last but by no means least year to look back on is 2021 following the cancellation of the 2020 carnival.

Everything was in place for the 138th event when, only weeks before Easter, the Government announced a ban on non-essential large-scale events and the Stawell Athletic Club postponed, then eventually cancelled, the 2020 Stawell Gift. It was only the 2nd time this had happened since 1878, for four years during WW2 and now for one year due to Covid-19.

The Victorian Government has implemented a State of Emergency that bans non-essential mass gatherings of 500 or more people in Victoria, effective midday Monday 16 March until 13 April 2020.

There was some consolation in receiving notice that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had announced the Stawell Gift as a location for a World Athletics Heritage Plaque.

The Stawell Gift was one of only 11 new locations announced at an official ceremony in Yokahama, Japan. “The eleven recipients we honour have each made an enormous impact in the historical development of the sport of athletics in their countries and beyond,” said Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF.

“The plaque is a location-based recognition which highlights, celebrates and links together iconic and historic athletics careers, cities, competitions, culture, landmarks, performances and venues around the world,” said SAC historian Murray McPherson.

The Stawell Gift was to be among only 31 sites around the world where the plaques are located with Australia’s only other recipient being the legendary Betty Cuthbert.

It was announced that the Government of Victoria would guarantee funding for the next four years and a new management structure was formed – Stawell Gift Event Management – with representatives from the Northern Grampians Shire Council, the Victorian Athletic League, the Stawell Athletic Club as well as three independent representatives.

A new naming rights partner was also announced with Powercor signing on to a five-year deal from 2021. Powercor is Australia’s leading rural electricity distribution network supplying power to almost 1 million households and businesses in western Victoria including Melbourne’s western suburbs.

In early March organisers received approval from the Victorian Government to welcome up to 5,000 spectators per day to Central Park for the 2021 Powercor Stawell Gift. A COVIDSafe plan was put in place and it was all systems go for the 2021 Powercor Stawell Gift.

On April 5, 2021, Edward Ware and Hayley Orman claimed the crowns on Easter Monday. 

Ed Ware from Mitcham in Melbourne won the Powercor Stawell Gift in 12.188 off a mark of 9.75m and Hayley Orman from Flagstaff Hill in Adelaide won the Change Our Game Women’s Gift in 13.876 also with a handicap of 9.75m.

Ed went into the final as one of the favourites, having the second fastest time in the heats on Saturday. Sebastian Baird from Black Forest, Adelaide was second in a time of 12.188 off 8m. Third place went to Munashe Hove in a time of 12.317 despite being moved back one metre to 4m due to a false start. 4th was Dion Paull, 5th Jake Ireland and 6th place in the final was the fastest heat runner Luke Houlihan.

Second in the Change Our Game Women’s Gift was 21-year-old Melbourne University student and Stawell first timer Cassandra Wang Lecouteur. Third place was 2019 runner up Sophia Fighera, 4th Chiara Santiglia from Northcote, 5th was 14-year-old Grace Kelly was Warrnambool and 6th place went to Kaylah Montagner from Far North Queensland.

Ed’s coach Nick Fiedler said it was an honour to be the coach of the 2021 Powercor Stawell Gift winner. “I’m ecstatic and very proud, he is a credit to himself and us all. We knew it was going to be close, but you can never discount the opposition. I knew he was a contender and Ed had a lot of confidence, so much so, he started in the 200m.”

Ed went on to claim the Stawell Athletic Club Jack Donaldson Handicap 200m an hour after his win in the 120m Gift final, which has only been achieved by the great Bill Howard in 1967.

Fia Fighera said; “I am thrilled with the third place today, it felt so special to run in the final again and be 4m back. I gave it my all and it was a great race to be a part of with some amazing athletes. The Stawell Gift has a place in my heart and it’s such an incredible experience to be a part of.”

All eyes were on backmarker Stewart McSweyn in the new feature race on the calendar, the AIA Vitality Invitation 3200m, but it was stablemate Thomas Thorpe who snuck away off his 200m handicap to secure the win. Thorpe trailed throughout the eight-lap journey before launching an assault on the home bend to prevail in the classy affair. Fan-favourite McSweyn managed to finish in fourth place, with his time of 8:19 on a gusty afternoon a demonstration of world class distance running at Stawell’s very own Central Park – certainly appreciated by the healthy crowd.

Young gun and frontmarker Jhye Hadfield was valiant when fighting on to finish in second place, with elite marathoner Jack Rayner crossing the line in third.

2019 Powercor Stawell Gift champion Dhruv Rodrigues Chico narrowly missed making the final but managed to storm to the front as the backmarker in the Furphy Chris Perry Memorial Backmarkers Handicap 120m in 12.354 holding off the race’s front marker, the Australian number 1 ranked 100m female athlete last year Hana Basic, who clocked a time of 12.431.

Jerome Lugo, the Arthur Postle 70m winner also won the Bill Howard 100m in a time of 10.364.  Olivia May won the Women’s 70m.

Joel Donnar was the winner of the Northern Grampians Shire Council Herb Hedemann 1600m in a time of 4.7.253.

The Masters Handicap 300m Final was won by Mark Glassborow in 35.091 followed by Martin Armour and David Griffin.

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