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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Gift favourite has handicap appeal denied

Gift favourite has handicap appeal denied

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1 Gift favourite has handicap appeal denied on Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:44 pm

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Stawell Gift Media Release
20th April 2011


Gift favourite has handicap appeal denied
as Kim Collins immerses in Gift history


The pre-race favourite for the 2011 Australia Post Stawell Gift has had an appeal against his Gift mark dismissed by a Victorian Athletic League appeal tribunal.

Australian 400m hurdles champion Brendan Cole is the $8 favourite to take out Australia’s richest footrace. The Canberra-based runner was handed a six metre handicap by the VAL, but did not receive a full one metre lift for the inclusion of 2003 world 100m champion Kim Collins, so took his case to the tribunal last night.

A philosophical Cole said he was satisfied with his mark but would have liked the full lift received by the majority of the 156 runners in this weekend’s Gift.

“We thought we’d have a go. I’d run a few Gifts this year, more so than in previous years. I thought I deserved a bit more than I got on the mark. But I’m happy with what I’ve got,” Cole said.

“6.25m would have been really nice. Most of the field got a one metre lift, and I didn’t so I thought I could squeeze out a little bit more.”

Cole said with $40,000 going to the winner, the race often came down to a matter of centimetres.

“At Stawell it always makes a difference. Quarter of a metre or half a metre – it’s not won by much more than that. It could mean the difference between first and fourth, or not making a semi final.”

Kim Collins gets ready by hitting the books
Meanwhile Collins has immersed himself in the history and tradition of Australia’s most famous footrace, watching a DVD of last year’s event and taking the time to read through the Stawell Gift Almanac that records the colourful catalogue of winners over the past 129 editions.

“It’s a fair race, where if you’re someone like myself who has a little bit more speed, they put you back to make sure you don’t have an unfair advantage. It seems like a good idea and I’m very happy to be a part of it,” was Collins’ summary of the unique nature of handicapped running.

“The tradition that it has, it’s great to be a part of that.

“I’ve seen what it can take to win. It’s going to be very interesting being the guy at the back and trying to catch everybody who’s in front.

“It’s about racing. Whether people are in front or behind, the object is to be the first to the line regardless of whatever the obstacles are. As a racer, you always want to be able to catch the people in front of you.”

Collins first started running on grass at home in St Kitt’s and Nevis, “I’m very happy and excited to be back on grass, where I started from in the early days of my career. The last time I raced on grass was 14 years ago back home.

After turning 35 earlier this month Collins will become the oldest ever winner if successful, but after a brief retirement, Collins returned to the track this year with some blistering indoor results, including a personal best and second fastest time in the world this year over 60m.

“I retired from Games and championships. I wanted to be home and relaxing but I realised there’s no time for that. My body is not ready to give up yet and once I can always compete in top shape. Not sure if ill be at worlds champs this year yet.

“I didn’t expect to run so fast at indoors. The old legs have a lot left in them.”

Australian 100m and 200m champion Aaron Rouge-Serret will have Collins for company at the back of the field; however former winner of the backmarkers invitation sprint at Central park is confident he can take his strong domestic season form to Stawell.

Rouge-Serret responded to a light-hearted jibe from room-mate John Steffensen who said today his only goal at Stawell was to beat the Australian 100m champion.

“I’ve got international calibre behind me and John Steffensen in front of me. He seems to think he is going to beat me, but I can’t let that happen. We get on well, but as soon as we step out on the track we’re competitors.

“We know what sort of condition we’re in and if we can get down around the 12.2, 12.1 then we can be pushing for the win.”

One of the strongest fields in the 133-year history of the event will assemble this week, with Collins, Cole, Rouge-Serret and Steffensen to be joined by the Kenyan distance runners and Australian distance star Craig Mottram. On the women’s side, Australian 100m silver medallist Melissa Breen will take on the men in the Gift in an attempt to become the first female to make a Gift semi final at Stawell. She will be joined by training partner, Australian 400m hurdles champion Lauren Boden, and Stawell perennial Tamsyn Lewis, who will be making her 18th journey to Central Park.

The 130th edition of the Australia Post Stawell Gift carnival will be staged over the Anzac Day long weekend this Easter from Friday, 22 April to Tuesday, 26 April, 2011.

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