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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Stawell Gift 2016: Teenager Talia Martin wins amid controversy

Stawell Gift 2016: Teenager Talia Martin wins amid controversy

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Stawell Gift 2016: Teenager Talia Martin wins amid controversy

By Michael Gleeson
Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday March 29, 2016

Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin controversially won the Stawell Gift on Monday but has been fined $2000 by stewards who said her form improved more in two weeks than most athletes expected in a lifetime.

Martin improved by seven metres in her heat on Saturday compared with a run at the Ararat Gift 12 days ago. Stewards fined her for an improvement in the extreme range.

"I would say it definitely does (damage confidence in the race and the result) – no doubt," said chief steward Brian Marantelli.

"It is like, in the horse racing game, getting beaten in a maiden at Pakenham and 12 days later wining the Cox Plate or something. That might be a bit over the top."

Martin was called in by stewards on Sunday because of her extreme range improvement, which is anything more than four metres in a short space of time.

"When she got here, she ran seven metres quicker than in Ararat which is more than most runners improve in a lifetime," Marantelli said.

"In our sport that is called improvement of extreme range. Extreme range stops at four metres so she was well off the chart for improvement in a short space of time."

Marantelli said Martin's father and coach, Peter O'Dwyer, admitted Martin had done the wrong thing and appealed the severity of the $2000 fine but not the verdict. The appeals panel reduced the fine from $2000 to $500 but also imposed a fine of the first $1500 of any prizemoney she might win.

"She hadn't done anything illegal as far as her handicap goes. The only reason she could get pulled (back in her handicap) is if she had run a PB somewhere that we didn't know about and she hadn't done that, she had just run poorly," Marantelli said.

The rapid improvement would not have changed her handicap as that is based on her best performances, but the poor recent form is significant for the track betting and the spirit of competition. No unusual betting patterns were observed.

The controversy overshadowed the performance of the slightly built schoolgirl from Ballarat.

Martin said after the race on Monday that prior to the Ararat race she had been emotionally overcome by an aunt's death.

"From Ararat Gift I didn't run my best, it was kind of when my aunty Barb died so I was really emotional and I just had to get past that and it obviously shook me up a bit," she said..

"I just have so many emotions running through me. I am excited and happy and overwhelmed. I can't believe it has happened. Aunty Barb always came down to Stawell with us and it's been really hard without her.

"Hopefully she is watching me from up in heaven and she is proud."

Martin was the quickest of the women in the semi-final and carried that form into the final, holding on to outlast fast-finishing Tierra Exum – the sister of basketballer Dante.

O'Dwyer, who is expected to be quizzed by Victorian Athletics League officials over the extreme improvement controversy said he would not appeal the stewards' decision.

"We will live with it. She has got $40,000 (prizemoney), why create any more controversy?" he said.

The $40,000 winner's cheque – last year prize money for the race was increased to parity with the men's gift – would be well spent, Martin said.

"I have always wanted a hover board, but I have never been allowed, so hopefully a few hundred goes towards that and I will save the rest," she said.



Stawell Gift 2016: Rule changes considered after 15yo women's winner fined

Victorian athletics officials are considering rule changes to crack down on "inconsistent running" in the Stawell Gift after the women's winner was fined over a dramatic improvement in form.
Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin won $40,000 in Australia's richest foot race but was fined $2,000 after stewards queried her winning time.

Brian Marantelli, the chief steward of the Victorian Athletic League, said she was fined for breaching the rule known as "inconsistent racing".

She ran 12 days ago at Ararat and her improvement between races was dramatic.

"We have a rule: if you run more than four metres in a short period of time, that is what we consider at the extreme range," Mr Marantelli told AM.

"Her seven-metre improvement is more than what most people can improve in a lifetime and she's done it in 12 days."

Mr Marantelli was asked how he would explain the dramatic improvement.

"I don't know. She improved dramatically from a $700 race to a $60,000 race," he said.

"I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to work out what happened."

Slow time blamed on relative's death
Talia's coach Peter O'Dwyer rejected any suggestion either of them had done anything wrong and said her slow run in the previous race was because of relative's death.

"She has just dealt with serious grief in her family. Her aunty died that week and she came and she let the grief impact her performance," he said.

"We wanted her to refocus for this weekend, so we did a lot of work over the last two weeks and she came up."

The teenager referred to her aunt's death after the race.

"My aunty passed away two weeks ago and she always came down to Stawell with us and it's been really hard without her," she said.

"Hopefully she's watching me from up in heaven and she's really happy."

Mr O'Dwyer pointed to the fact that Talia had won the last two junior Stawell Gifts.

"So the natural progression was the women's gift," he said.

"You'd expect a 14-to-15-year-old to improve and she probably improved three metres on those performances.

"If you look at the margin, how much did she win by? [Anyone] would be pleased with that result given she won only by the smallest of margins."

However, Mr Marantelli said he expected the issue would be the top agenda item at the Victorian Athletic League's end of year review.

He said they would bring in "a few rules and regulations" to crack down on inconsistent running.

"How can we avoid this type of thing again? Perhaps how we can also better educate our coaches," he said.

"I know there was a lot of money involved and it's a sport that depends on handicapping to give everybody a chance, but it's not a good look."



Talia Martin: a star is born at Stawell Gift

Talia Martin, 15, celebrates after winning the women’s gift. Picture: Mark Dadswell

By Chip Le Grande
The Australian|
March 29, 2016

They came to Stawell to see a kid lay claim to Australia’s richest running race. They left having ­witnessed not the teenage star everyone expected to win but the one no one saw coming.

In the men’s race, 17-year-old Hobart schoolboy Jack Hale, a prodigious junior sprinting talent with his eyes on the Rio Olympic Games, was unable to reel in a field of older runners. In the women’s race, 15-year-old Talia Martin, a girl from nearby Ballarat, started from the front and stubbornly ­refused to be passed.

The results confounded handicappers, bookmakers, punters and stewards, who not for the first time left Stawell’s Central Park wondering whether someone had pulled a swifty at the 135-year-old event.

There were no quibbles about the winner of the men’s race. Isaac Dunmall, a financial services worker from Brisbane who has made the annual pilgrimage to Victoria’s western districts for seven years, ran strongly into a stiff headwind to hold off Tjimarri Sanderson-Milera and the fast-finishing Hale, who started as short-priced favourite.

Presented a winner’s cheque for $40,000, Dunmall offered an each-way exclamation. “Holy hell!’’ The only other time he made a final, he finished last. “I know what it feels like to not quite get there,’’ he said. “My heart goes to the other guys.’’

Martin was rendered speechless by her win. Race stewards felt much the same way after they held an inquiry into her lead-in form.

Martin is known within ­running circles as the niece of Tony Martin, a two-time Stawell finalist, and the charge of Peter O’Dwyer, whose daughter Grace won last year’s race, also as a 15-year-old. The women’s race has been a stand-alone event since 1989 and O’Dwyer has coached the past three winners.

Yet 12 days ago, when Talia Martin ran in the Ararat gift, she bore no resemblance to a future Stawell champion. Based on this form, the handicappers let her start off 13m in Stawell.

The “extreme’’ improvement in Martin’s times between Ararat and her first heat race in Stawell prompted an inquiry by stewards. She was found guilty of inconsistent running and docked a percentage of any winnings. Those winnings reached $40,000 yesterday when she held off a lunge at the line by Tierra Exum, the twin sister of NBA player Dante Exum.

Her fine was $2000. Asked how she’d spend her winnings, she said she’d get a hoverboard.

Victorian Athletic League chief steward Brian Marantelli kept his feet firmly on the ground. He said the episode had damaged the credibility of the event.

“She got here and ran 7m quicker — that’s more than most runners improve in a lifetime,’’ he said.

“It’s like in the horseracing game, getting beaten in a maiden at Pakenham and 12 days later winning the Cox Plate.’’

Martin said she ran poorly in Ararat because she was shaken by the death of her aunt. “I was in a really emotional state and didn’t run my best and I just had to get past that.’’ She dedicated her ­Stawell Gift win to her late aunt.

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