Wiltshire win a Gift for grandpa
10th April 2012
MATT Wiltshire struggled to keep his emotions in check after finally claiming a Stawell Gift triumph for his family yesterday.
His grandfather, John "Wiry" Wiltshire, had been the favourite for the 1958 Gift only to be cut down on race eve by a torn hamstring.
There was no denying the 20-year-old Wiltshire this time around, as he won the 120m handicap event at Central Park in 12.22s, ahead of Melbourne duo Doug Greenough and Adam Coote.
John Steffensen, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 400m champion, had surged to favouritism on the back of a commanding semi-final victory earlier yesterday, but he pulled up in the final after feeling a twinge in his hamstring.
By that point, Wiltshire was well on his way to a victory worth $40,000. "This is the best feeling you could ever imagine -- to win the Stawell Gift, the biggest race in Australia," said the Ballarat university student, who ran off an 8m mark in the final.
"It means so much to me and I know how much it means to my coach, how much it means to my dad and how much it means to everyone. And every time I see (my grandpa), I tear up because I know how much it means to him."
The 80-year-old John Wiltshire said he was more nervous than his grandson. "I always hoped and prayed he'd get there. I knew he had the ability."
Wiltshire had been near the top of the bookmakers' charts for the past couple of weeks.
He overcame a poor start in the final to power home, crediting his strength in the closing stages to some gruelling beach training sessions over the Christmas holidays.
A self-imposed alcohol ban this year ended last night, while a diet based largely around tuna and vegetables was also set to be put on hold. "It's horrible stuff -- I don't want to be eating that again," he said. "Give me some KFC and I'll be all good."
Olympic sprint hopeful Melissa Breen completed a successful campaign by winning her first women's Gift off scratch in 13.95.