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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Burning desire earns Gift

Burning desire earns Gift

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1 Burning desire earns Gift on Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:39 am



Burning desire earns Gift

Michael Gleeson
Sports Writer for The Age
April 2 2013

When his coach lost his house in the Tasmanian bushfires early in the new year, sprinter Andrew Robinson and his training partners quietly resolved to do what they could for Ray Quarrell and get Robinson over the line to win the Stawell Gift.

On Easter Monday, the Launceston runner made good on his promise, holding out the pre-race favourite Mitchell Williams-Swain by a silk top’s width to win and become the first Tasmanian to win the gift since Ken Hutton in 1941.

‘‘I just really wanted to go out there this weekend and make (Quarrell) proud and put all that bad stuff we had happened to us this year behind us and I have done that in the best possible way,’’ Robinson said after his winning run.

‘‘After Christmas time we set ourselves to come here and do our best in this race and after everything that happened I used that as personal motivation to do it for someone who I love like a second dad.’’

Quarrell and his wife Kathleen lost everything they owned when fires destroyed their Dunalley home in the new year. It threw all training plans into disarray for Robinson and the stable of other runners under Quarrell’s control.

‘‘The bushfires came straight through our town and wiped us out. They took all the equipment and everything. I put (everything) off for a week and the following week we held a carnival on the 26th of January and the boys all just rallied around,’’ Quarrell said.

‘‘We got our gear together. These blokes have been doing it for me ... it was a very emotional time ... all year (the team of runners) wanted to do something especially for me and this is what it’s all about. They’ve just bonded together and done it and I’m so grateful because they’re a great crew.’’

Robinson, a 20-year-old studying education at university, was overwhelmed at the life-changing nature of the victory and more pointedly the $40,000 winner’s purse, saying he planned to buy a car, possibly invest in a house or maybe retire some HECS debt. He now has some options.

In betting for the race on Friday evening Robinson was at $81, shortened to $15 after the heats and he was still at a healthy $13 prior to the final. His dad got a quiet $5 on him at $81, but the ecstatic celebration of his training squad mates who mobbed Robinson over the line reflected that several of them had loaded on Robinson with a sligfhtly stronger wager than his dad’s flutter.

In a dramatic final, Williams-Swain - who won the gift two years ago and was the short priced favourite at $1.30 - false-started in the final and was docked a metre, pushing him back to a 3.5 metre handicap. The false start proved crucial as Williams-Swain closed down Robinson, who was running off a mark of 7.25 metres, but he ran out of track, the Tasmanian holding him out to the line to win in a time of 12.01 seconds, two hundredths of a second faster than Williams-Swain.

‘‘I thought my luck might be in when (he false started). I was quietly happy about it. But I still knew that I had to execute, I had to put it behind me pretty quickly, I had to concentrate on my race. I just went out there and ran as hard as I could and when those backmarkers came against me just kicked like a mule,’’ he said.

‘‘I could feel him. I could see him in the corner of my eye and I thought ’get there, get there, get there’, and the line couldn’t come quickly enough. I am rapt. I knew I got there on the line and I could tell from the reaction of my training partners.’’

Earlier in the day, after holding out a glimmer of hope over the weekend that he might yet recover from hamstring soreness to run in the final, Jamaican former world-record holder Asafa Powell confirmed that he would not be fit to run.

‘‘I am very disappointed that I will be unable to run today,’’ Powell said. ‘‘That is how it goes in this sport ... the bodies of athletes. I felt tight in the warm-up, I was trying to get rid of the tightness but there was a bit too much.

‘‘I went out there hoping it would loosen up after the run but it got worse.’’

Powell will now wait to see how his body feels before confirming whether he will run in the Melbourne World Challenge at Lakeside Stadium next Saturday. Athletics officials confirmed that his injury withdrawal from Stawell would not prevent him being able to run at Albert Park next week.

‘‘Hopefully I run. I’m someone who knows injuries and based on this injury, it is something that won’t keep me out for a long time,’’ he said.

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