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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Mat Wiltshire: family ties and dedication his key to victory

Mat Wiltshire: family ties and dedication his key to victory

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Stawell Gift winner Mat Wiltshire: family ties and dedication his key to victory

By Kathy Bedford
10 April 2012

Where else can you earn $40,000 in 12 seconds? The 2012 Stawell Gift winner discusses his emotional victory in the race once known as 'the world's richest running race' and how he delivered on the inspirational example set some 50 years ago when his grandfather lined up as the favourite for the Gift.

Mathew Wilstshire sits in the ABC Ballarat studios and listens back to the 12 seconds that he'd been working towards for the past 12 months of his life - 12 seconds that have propelled the 20 year old into the nation's athletic history books and kickstarted a career in athletics that he hopes will one day take him to the Olympics.

"It's just a fantastic feeling... it still hasn't sunk in it yet," he says as the announcer's triumphant voice fades.

Mathew Wiltshire ran a time of 12.22 seconds over the 120 metre field to defeat a field that included one of the hot favourites to take out the race, Olympian John Steffeson.

"Out of the blocks I had a pretty average start... somehow I just kicked and had a really good acceleration, and then I didn't really think until about 2 metres from the line that I actually had it, so that's when I did the big fist pump... pretty excited."

It was a victory that came with extra relish; Mathew's father Grant was at the Stawell Central Park on Sunday standing next to his Dad - who'd once upon a time come was a favourite for the Gift himself.

"t was very very special for Wiry, as he's known; he goes up each and every year. In 1958 he as the favourite for the Gift and unfortunately he pulled his hamstring, so he didn't make it to the final... he's had a wonderful couple of days up there with family and all his special friends, it's a great gathering up there with people from all over Australia coming each year," says Grant.

"I remember Dad turned 80 in February... I remember Matt got up and said "I'm going do it for you, Pa' and he did - it was fantastic. Dad's got his sash and my eldest brother, Steven, in 1980 won the 400 metres."

It's nothing short of a life-changing experience - not just in having to give away his beloved Aussie Rules for 12 months and participating in a rigorous training and diet regimen which eschewed all take-away food - but in the sudden windfall for a young man wondering what his plans might be for the future.

"To be only 20 years old and get $40,000 is very significant... I think I'm going to buy a pretty nice surfboard, but apart from that I haven't thought about it too much, 'cos all I think is the winning and the feeling around it..." says Matt.

Does he see a future in running - taking this victory as a starting point and seeing how far it can take him?

"That's the hope - to go into nationals and things like that; an Olympic relay team spot would be fantastic, I've still got a metre or two before making it there, but I know if I work hard like I did this year... another couple of years and I'll be running even quicker..." says Matt.

In the meantime, Matt looks set to return to his great love - footy - at least for a season before strapping on the spiked shoes once again and taking to the athletics track.

"I had last year off footy because of that reason - I didn't want to get injured and just so I could be really prepared for Stawell, but I've been missing it that much..."

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