Stawell Gift marks

By John Salvado
STAWELL, Vic, April 4 AAP - A dodgy back or an unlikely meltdown look to be the only things standing between red-hot favourite Tom Burbidge and the 2010 Stawell Gift crown.

The Canberra sprinter is the odds-on $1.25 favourite after clocking 12.48 seconds off a generous 8.75m mark in the heats on a day when no-one else could break the 12.7-second mark.

Those times are sure to come down in Monday’s semis and final, especially after the track was re-surveyed to the regulation 120m on Sunday morning.

Race officials were left red-faced after it was discovered that Saturday’s heats had been run over a distance of 123.2m.

Burbidge, 25, is one of six runners in the Gift semis trained by former Olympic 400m hurdler Matt Beckenham.

He was targeting the 400m event at last year’s Gift carnival, only for his back to give out in the semis of the premier sprint event.

The back started playing up again a couple of weeks ago, but the stars seem to have aligned for him this year at the crucial time.

``The focus had always been on the 400 with Tom but I am big on speed, I think it’s the key to all events,’’ said Beckenham.

``If you don’t have it, that just compounds everything.

``If you can’t run 11 seconds for 100, you can’t run 22 seconds for 200, or 46 for 400 - I’m always trying to get my athletes as fast as I possibly can.

``Tom just showed me a few glimpses and he is good on grass as well, when his back is fine.’’

Beckenham believes Burbidge - who has also had hip problems - will draw inspiration from having five other members of his close-knit squad in the semis.

``They’ll all be pumped off the map,’’ said Beckenham.

``Luke Storta won the opening heat and that creates a confidence for each other that they can go out and mix it.

``They’re all staying at Ararat, Tom organised the accommodation, they’ve got his mum and dad cooking breakfast and they’re out there having a good time.’’

Burbidge has drawn a favourable semi-final and is expected to advance comfortably to the final later on Monday.

Dale Woodhams and world championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt also look well placed to win their semis.

The toughest of the six semis includes defending champion Aaron Stubbs, pre-event favourite Josh Tiu and Adam Burbridge.

Tiu is the second favourite at TABSportsbet at $7, ahead of Woodhams ($8) and Douglas Greenough ($13).

In a postscript to the track mis-measuring fiasco, Olympic and world pole vault champ Steve Hooker was reinstated to the semi-final field after race stewards decided he was in a winning position at the 120m of his heat before fading to third.

[b]But Hooker declined the offer due to an inflamed groin.

``After what happened at the world championships and with the national titles just two weeks away, it’s not a risk I can afford to take,’’ he said.

``At the end of the day, I haven’t got that much hope either so I will be happy to sit in the stands and watch the real sprinters fight it out.’’ [/b]

The winner of the 129th Stawell Gift will pocket $40,000.

Who is coaching


He has been coached by Emil Risk, perhaps that remains the situation.

Smartest guys in Stawell - when they figured out the reason times were so slow was because the race distance was 123.2m long - 3.2m too long. Doh!

This is a fine example of “running dead” before a big race with intention of obtaining a better mark. In other words, in pro running, planning and periodisation have a different meaning all together!

It has always been like that and it will always be the same.

Stewards fine ‘inconsistent’ Stawell Gift winner Tom Burbidge
April 5, 2010 - 4:06PM

Tom Burbidge celebrates his strong win in today’s Stawell Gift.

Minutes after punching the air as he crossed the finish line first in the illustrious Stawell Gift today, stewards fined Tom Burbidge for “inconsistent performances”.

And Burbidge has reportedly accepted the fine.

The Canberra sprinter Tom Burbidge had raced to victory in the 129th Stawell Gift.

The odds-on favourite had the race in his keeping well before the finish line, clocking a winning time of 12.01 seconds.

Dale Woodhams was second and Douglas Greenough was third.

Racing off a handicap of 8.75 metres 25-year-old Burbidge was backed into odds-on favouritism after the semi-finals on Saturday.

But after crossing the finish line today to pocket the $40,000, winner’s cheque, Victorian Athletic League stewards imposed the fine.

Only eight days ago Burbidge was eliminated in the semi-finals of the St Bernards Gift in Melbourne, after clocking a time of 13.13 into a stiff headwind.

Coach Matt Beckenham said Burbidge would accept the fine. But he said Burbidge’s long history of back injuries meant his performances were always going to fluctuate.

Mark Howard, CEO of the Victorian Athletic League, said Burbidge was fined for deliberately underperforming in the semi-finals of the St Bernards Gift in Melbourne eight days ago.

Mr Howard said that performance, which was inconsistent with his run today, gave Burbidge an improved handicap position during the Stawell event.

‘‘At our St Bernard’s meeting last Sunday, he ran a 13 second 120 metres, and he’s come out and won the Stawell Gift with a low-12-second time,’’ said Mr Howard.

‘‘The St Bernard’s track is a lot slower than this track, so he was fined $5000 dollars by the stewards and he paid the fine.’’
Mr Howard said if Burbidge had won the earlier event he would have received a handicap penalty.

It’s not the only controversy the historic event has drawn in recent years.

In 2008, Australian sprinter and Stawell Gift winner Nathan Allen was banned for two years by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for possession of a banned substance.

Allen won the Stawell Gift in 2007 and was arrested at the media launch of the 2008 event for allegedly importing steroids from Thailand.

Allen was banned from competition until March this year.

Pro running is shit. Beating the handicapper is what the whole game is all about. Nothing else. Burbidge would more than cop it sweet that the VAL will take back their $5000 tax. Just another snip. Almost every year something ridiculous has happened at Stawell…

An old mate of mine, sadly now deceased, wrote me the following note in 2006:

"How could you say such things about an iconic event like the Stawell Gift,
fancy you referring to the pro circuit a “Backwater of handicap prize
money” and “Colourful but low - key Australian bush Circuit”.

You should never, never, ever have said that!!! 'Cos I wanted to say

What is it they say about great minds thinking alike? Great stuff Mate.

Cheers & Beers
Peter Norman

Pro running is shit


You should never, never, ever have said that!!! 'Cos I wanted to say it. :cool:

Back when I was a starter in the Newcastle area some athletes asked if it was ok to set up the blocks behind the line, there is nothing in the rulebook so we just let them set up where they wanted, I can remember at least 3m behind the line at times. i was told later they were pro runners.

I was informed a few of weeks back an athlete tried the same thing at a Sydney interclub and the starters would not allow him to do so. Don’t think the rules have changed just some get followed and some made up on the day.

Pro running is shit
I think Chris Perry, John Dinan, Steve Brimmacombe, Josh Ross would beg to differ. Not a bad bunch of runners from something that is shit.
Why the negativity towards Stawell and pro running, surely both forms of the sport can coexist without one putting the other down.
At the end of the day, athletics is getting good live, free to air coverage from Stawell and should be supported by all.

I didn’t say pro runners are shit. There’s a difference. I just think that the whole pro game is warped because its about beating the handicapper, getting under his/their guard - which happens every year at almost every large meet and the results are often “interesting” - remember when Linford Christie was beaten by some guy at the Botany Bay Gift but the first prize went to Christie because they promised him so much money that they needed to make most of it up from the prize pool. They never contemplated he could lose.
As to whether the guys you mentioned were fast because they ran pros, that’s equally in doubt since many “amateurs” have run even faster. Maybe the pros would have run faster had they been brought up on conventional training the likes of which Usain Bolt follows, rather than the speedball etc the likes of which Allan Wells is the pin-up boy for.

Having said all of that, Perry, JD, Brimmer, the Boss and many others of byegone eras in the pro ranks are all great guys, no doubt, and talented. Reg Austin, Ken Irvine, Steve Proudlock et al. Great blokes. But the game they played was dodgy and it still is. Publicity gives credibility it seems, but you can buy publicity if you have enough money and crazy ideas (pole vaulter to run Stawell etc). At the end of the day, another smokey ran off with the purse. What a larf it all is :rolleyes:

Pro runners or sprinters who wanted to make some $$?


why is it a laugh that a ‘smokey’ wins the gift. Its not as though he just turns up and is awarded 1st prize.
If publicity can be bought, then AA better buy some.

some real brain power in that group, :cool: how far is 120m??

KK and I are poles apart on our thoughts on this so I won’t bother trying to defend his assertion that pro-running is shit.

Bottom line is the Stawell Gift for all its issues and problems still attracts a crowd of 7000 plus who pump thousands into the local rural community. As do many running meets run in rural areas all over the country. Tomorrow night is the $15,000 Ararat Gift and on the weekend is the $40,000 Ballarat Gift.

It’s a game yes, but you still need to be running as fast as you can when it matters most. The ability to have your runner in the peak of condition on the day is no easy task.

Personally I have witnessed just as much unethical behaviour in the amateur arena as I have in the pro’s. At least in the pro’s I expect it but i don’t expect some of the rubbish I’ve seen from those protecting their own interest in the amateurs.

I find the pro game exciting and a wonderful opportunity for middle of the road sprinters to reap rewards from the sport.

If you don’t like it that’s OK; Stick to the amateurs, no-one’s forcing you to become involved.

By the way, the coach of the 2010 Stawell Gift winner, Matt Beckenham is featured in the latest AT&FCA magazine and suggests all sprinters should start off by participating in pro running because its such a fun initiation to athletics. All of his athletes support the pro-circuit as he is appreciative of the prizemoney available to help many of his athletes fund their athletic careers.

Better to run hard & often eaning p/money than to competing sparingly and relying on government handouts.

PS: My athlete Dale Woodhams ran 2nd in the Stawell Gift final. After a disappointing Stawell campaign in 2009, he came back 12 months later, ran superbly, finished a respectable 2nd (off a lesser mark) and won the 70m. He pocketed nearly 8 grand, 3 very nice trophies and a coveted sash from Stawell. As a state level sprinter that’s something he could never earn running in interclub and state titles.

The same can be said for the race that stops the race nation on the first Tues Nov- so many champion racehorses ( Octagonal, northerly etc) were handicapped out of the Cup. From memory when Northerly was handicapped at 60.5kg after winning the Caufield cup in 02- no modern horse can carry that weight and win.

The secret to the winning the cup is getting in with good weight hcp by staying under the radar.

Handicap horse racing is very similar to pro- running. Its part of Oz culture.

Well done to Youngy, I saw the race on YouTube and your man ran a stormer.

To the anti-pro brigade, I thought the days of irrational hostility to pro running were over, but obviously not.

Why can’t the two co-exist as in horse racing where the Group or Grade race pattern caters for top horses and handicaps exist for mid-range animals? That’s not to say an improving handicapper can’t go on to win a Group race!

As a young athlete some years ago I was banned from (amateur) school sports for accepting money at pro meets - virtual pocket money I may add.

Now, as a coach in this era of open athletics, I am happy for my athletes to run under both codes, trying to get the best of both worlds.

Handicap races may not be as pure as the conventional sport but they have a long and proud history and sure beat midweek open graded meets in front of two men and a dog.

(I am sure the rest of the athletic world is reading this thread and wondering what we’re on about)

I have often wondered if the pro circuit introduced a rule along the lines of some of the car racing codes where you submit a time and drop out if that time is bettered. It woud certainly slow down some of the crap PR they have been getting recently.

I think they do to a degree… Run dead as long as possible and when you think you have the best chance to run fast then chase the money (and have your coach place huge amounts with the bookie). I think they allow 8/10s turn around in performance. Thats stupid. thats close to 8m of performance change. O well for those who play the pro game good luck to them. I think they need to change the ruling to 3/10ths, If there is a drastic improvement a disq from that event. It will make it more challenging and athletes will know if they have a rela chance.

COuld be part of the reason the toughest sprint race is getting weaker. Once upon a time it was 36 hts (winner only) to 6 semi (winner only to final). No fastest losers, no repocharges.

There are rules already in place in regards to the parameters an athlete can improve/lose form - 0.55 (relatively speaking) is generally allowed before the stewards take action.

Anything outside that and one is vulnerable to a range of penalties.

The greater the rate of ‘change’ in one’s form the greater the penalty.

The sport lost a lot of credibility this year with the inaction of the stewards.

The sport desperately needs a clean up - someone with integrity and a willingness to come down hard on those who transgress.

Would have be interesting if someone like NRL’s David Gallup had of been in charge at Stawell.

The VAL officials simply don’t have the capacity nor the desire to fix what has become a massive problem. The small number of heats (20) compared to the halcyon days of the 1980’s when we regularly had 35 or more is indicative of the lack of credibility & integrity the sport has. It’s the inability of those involved to acknowledge the problem that attracts the ridicule & scorn from the media and the more narrow minded members of the amateur athletics fraternity.

Properly administered with common-sense stewarding & handicapping and the sport could flourish once again.

I don’t think there’s much wrong but letting athletes to get away with a 10m change in form in a 6 day time span is simply a case of extremely poor stewarding.

Won’t change while certain people within the walls of power keep their collective heads buried in the sand and choose to ignore it.

Nah, the perfect man for the job is not David Gallup but Brian Waldron!

He has both CEO’s experience and skills and he knows how to clean up all of the financial problems that may surface. Not to mention that his character and moral values perfectly fit within the VAL fraternity.