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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Wiltshire’s gift for his family

Wiltshire’s gift for his family

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1 Wiltshire’s gift for his family on Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:11 am



Wiltshire’s gift for his family

Ballarat Courier
10 Apr, 2012

"THIS is just the best feeling in the world" — the only way an emotional Matt Wiltshire could grasp the enormity of what he had achieved.

The Alfredton sprint sensation kicked home hard to claim a dramatic Stawell Gift win — polishing off unfinished family business and staking claim to what his hometown had been urging him to do via a growing social networking craze all week.

"Ballarat Matt", as Twitter fans trended, pulled on the winners’ sash at Central Park yesterday $40,000 richer and with his name etched into Australian athletic immortality as victor of the iconic 120-metre handicap. Wiltshire is the fifth Ballarat athlete to win at Stawell in the 131st edition of the Gift.

His grandfather John “Wiry” Wiltshire had been favourite for the 1958 Gift, his quest thwarted by a torn hamstring. He succumbed to the injury in a heat of the 75 yards — now known as the Arthur Postle 70-metre Handicap.

Two generations later, Matt Wiltshire was among this year’s Stawell Gift favourites and once he lined up on the track nothing could stop him.

Wiltshire asserted his authority on the race about the half-way mark and was clear in front 30m out from the gates. Running off eight metres, Wiltshire crossed the line in 12.22 seconds ahead of Melbourne’s Doug Greenough (9.5m) and AFL boundary umpire Adam Coote (11m).

Alongside Wiltshire, flamboyant Australian sprinter John Steffensen lined up as backmarker on 6m and bookies’ favourite after a dominant semi-final win with which he revved up the grandstands in true Steffensen style.

The 2006 Commonweatlh Games 400m champion pulled up in the final, citing a twinge in his hamstring but Wiltshire had already surged ahead.

“I was a bit worried about (racing) Steffensen but I’ve been training hard and knew I could have a good run,” Wiltshire said.

“I had a terrible start but then I saw the gates, kicked on and kept on going.”

Wiltshire spoke to his grandfather on Sunday and said his simple advice was to “try your best, that’s all you can do”.

An emotional Wiltshire teared-up each time he saw or mentioned his grandfather post-race.

“I can’t imagine how happy he is... I know how much it means to him,” Wiltshire said.

Accepting his sash, Wiltshire said he knew just how much the win meant to his family, coach Peter O’Dwyer and stablemates.

Wiltshire was swamped by family and friends at the finishing line.

Dad Grant and cousin Alec Wiltshire carried the victor atop their shoulders before cheering crowds to the podium. He shared a short moment with his grandfather on the podium, looking back out above all the cameras, across the crowd.

For Matt Wiltshire, all the sacrifices had been worth these moments.

Wiltshire started pre-season training three weeks after last year’s Stawell Gift.

He ruled out alcohol — becoming known as "the guy with the water bottle in his hands at parties" — and took up a tuna and vegetable based diet. Training intensified.

Wiltshire took to the beach at Ocean Grove with the POD Squad through Christmas and New Year and worked hill sprints to near collapsing.

He wanted to be 100 per cent ready when his time should come.

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