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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Robbo's two Dads have reason to celebrate

Robbo's two Dads have reason to celebrate

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1 Robbo's two Dads have reason to celebrate on Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:32 am



Dads strike it lucky as outsider grabs Stawell Gift

From: The Australian
April 02, 2013

IT may be just a grass track in a Victorian country town, but for consistent high drama there are few better theatres of sport than Central Park in Stawell on Easter Monday.

In the 132nd running of the Stawell Gift yesterday, a sprinter whose coach lost his house in the Tasmanian bushfires in January became the first Apple Islander in 72 years to win the prize. And like any great tale, there was a twist that delivered a surprise outcome.

The 2011 Stawell winner, Mitchell Williams-Swain, was the outright favourite to join the greats of the event and win the revered handicap race a second time after dominating the semi-finals earlier in the day, when he clocked 11.95sec from a mark of 4.5m on the 120m grass track. None of the other five semi-final winners broke 12 seconds, giving him a clear margin over the field.

But in the final Williams-Swain was called for a false start, an automatic 1m penalty on his handicap. That took his mark back to 3.5m on the restart and gave his rivals new hope of victory.

"I might get up now," 20-year-old Andrew Robinson remembers thinking. "I thought I would be right in there."

And so it proved. Rank outsider Robinson, starting from 7.25m, dashed down the track, cutting through the front-markers, and withstood a late surge from Williams-Swain to claim the $40,000 prize. The margin was just 0.02sec, leaving Robinson elated and Williams-Swain, 21, from the Gold Coast, agonising over what might have been.

"To win this, my life has changed," Robinson, a Launceston university student, declared.

He then dedicated his triumph to his coach, Ray Quarrell, who lost his home in the bushfires at Dunalley two months ago.

"After everything that happened, I used that as personal motivation to do it for someone who I love like a second dad. I just really wanted to go out there this weekend and make him proud and put all that bad stuff we had happen to us this year behind us, and I have done that in the best possible way."

Quarrell and wife Kathleen escaped the bushfires with "just the shirts on our backs" but he continued to guide his sprint squad remotely, and his luck changed yesterday. "I had a dream that this was my destiny to do something like this," Quarrell said.

Both dads were happy. Robinson revealed his father had backed him on Friday night at odds of $81.

There were enough twists of fate yesterday to leave heads spinning. Earlier, former world 100m record-holder Asafa Powell (scratch), the fastest man ever to enter the event, was forced to withdraw from the semi-finals due to hamstring soreness. Another favourite, dual winner Josh Ross (1m), was surprisingly eliminated in the semi-finals, snuffing out his hopes of becoming the first to win the event three times.

And in the grand and colourful tradition of professional gift racing, the women's final produced a genuine smoky who beat the handicapper. Former world masters beach sprint champion Davina Strauss, 33, had her handicap revised from 14m to 10m after a sensational heat run on Saturday, but she still had the field covered in the final.

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