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PROTRACK » GENERAL » DiBella not tempted to try a 'Sammy Martin' with McCabe

DiBella not tempted to try a 'Sammy Martin' with McCabe

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O brother, where art thou in the running?
By Michael Gleeson, Stawell
The Age
April 26, 2011

ANDREW McCabe is rated fourth favourite to win today's Stawell Gift. His identical brother Josh is not.

Josh is an impressive 200- and 400-metre runner himself but he is not in the semi-finals and as yet has not been sighted drinking beer and eating pies at Central Park. That was the inventive ploy in one of the more amusing stings in the storied history of the country meet when, in 1988, Sam Martin the coach of identical twin brothers Scott and Paul Antonich had the non-racing Paul attend the track on race day and start downing beers and pies.

Scott's odds blew out with each sip Paul took of his beer. Scott had begun the day the shortest-priced favourite in Gift history but took the tape later in the day on longer odds and delivered his stable a neat $33,000 in bets.

McCabe's coach, two-time Olympics sprinter Paul Di Bella, has attempted no such trickery.

McCabe, a Queensland runner, with a mark of 6.25 metres, coasted home in his heat on Saturday in 12.37 seconds - one of the quickest times of the day. McCabe looked to have geared down in the final 10-20 metres once he knew he had the race won, making his run look one of the more impressive of the day.

Di Bella, who competed for Australia in the 100 relay and individual sprint at the Sydney Olympics and the relay at Athens, has worked with McCabe since meeting him at the Australian All Schools carnival in 2007.

''Andrew was serious about his athletics. He moved from Toowoomba to Brisbane, training full-time and attending university in Brisbane, where he studies education,'' Di Bella said.

''The first time I saw him he was really tight. Flexibility-wise, he was all over the place. He had the ability but we really had to go back to basics and teach him to run technically correctly. He's got a lot better with the flexibility, although there's still some work to do, but we've got him to a place where he can run a fast time.''

When he finished his winning heat on Saturday, McCabe said the Gift was a consolation prize for the season after he failed to qualify for the national titles last week. He has competed at the Queensland state championships but this is the biggest meet he has competed in. ''Andrew had a broken kneecap in the middle of last year and a few other niggles, so has had to be kept in cotton wool a little bit, but he seems to have come good now and he's injury-free,'' Di Bella said.

He said McCabe, who has a personal best of 10.86 for the 100, was comfortable in the heat but he was as interested as anyone to see how he would fare today with a crowd around him.

''He handles the pressure really well. He's a very calm, casual personality. I think his coach is more of a stress bucket.''

Di Bella, who is also a school teacher, admits he borrows heavily from the style of his own coach, Cliff Mallett, who advised him over the weekend just to keep McCabe calm, saying: ''How he deals with the pressure is what's going to define him.''

McCabe has been backed to $6 for the race, behind Ben Weaver $3.50 (running off eight metres), Ed Ware $5 (10.25 metres) and Mitchell Williams $5 (6.5 metres).

However, the biggest plunge over the weekend involved a runner for whom no cheeky bookies' tricks has been required. His form is very much exposed.

Kim Collins, the former world 100 champion who has previously run a sub-10-second race (9.98), is very much the known commodity.

On Saturday, starting from scratch, he wound up on the grass to hunt down every runner in the field to win his heat in 12.52.

It seems it inspired many to wager that he will do likewise today, with his odds dropping from $34 on Saturday to $15 now.

But even making the final might be a stretch as Collins is confronting one of the quicker heat qualifiers in Kevin Brittain on a mark of 7.25 metres in the semi-final. Brittain was a heavily backed favourite last year but was rolled in the semis by eventual winner Tom Burbidge.

Meanwhile, Craig Mottram will advance his return to competition from injury today, competing in the Herb Hedemann mile race.

Regularly a 5000 runner, Mottram is competing as part of his training build-up leading towards the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, later this year.

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