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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Matt Wiltshire benefits from Peter O'Dwyer's experience

Matt Wiltshire benefits from Peter O'Dwyer's experience

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Ballarat Gift: O'Dwyer's knowledge a gift
Ballarat Courier
29 Apr, 2011

TRAINING with the defending Ballarat Gift champion has improved Matt Wiltshire’s race.

But Wiltshire was not sure he was ready to take over the hometown hero mantle just yet.

The Ballarat Gift 120-metre handicap title has belonged in Ballarat hands the past two years – Rod Mathews in 2009 and Peter O’Dwyer in 2010.

Both are back in contention tomorrow.

Wiltshire reached the Stawell Gift semi-finals on Tuesday and will race off 7.75m in the $30,000 Ballarat Gift but expected his mentor O’Dwyer to come out firing off 8.25m in heat eight.

“He’d have to wouldn’t he, defending his title,” Wiltshire said.

“He’s fantastic to train with and knows so much, which has improved me so much as a runner.

“What he’s done and the stories about gifts he tells are amazing.

“He’s about twice my age and just as quick – a real superstar.”

Wiltshire, aged 19, said O’Dwyer was in great form this season, despite carrying a calf injury mid-summer.

The Alfredton teenager was the first of the POD Squad to win a Stawell sash when he captured the novice 100m this Easter.

Wiltshire’s main focus is on securing the double – he is vying to take out the restricted 120m at Ballarat, a race for novice runners and this season’s novice winners.

“I’ve pulled up fine. I went for a jog Wednesday night and the legs feel fresh,” Wiltshire said.

“I’m hoping to win the novice.

“To win the Gift would be nice too, but I know it’s going to be really tough like with guys like (Andrew) McCabe, who beat me in the Stawell semis.

“I’ll be over the moon if I can get a win in front of a hometown crowd though.”

The POD Squad ranks have grown this year with interstate sprinters Bryce Teo (5.75m) and Dylan Panizza (7m) joining their training regime.

Teo, from Perth, starts as backmarker in heat nine while Panizza, from Albany, will race in heat eight in the lane next to O’Dwyer.

Both train under O’Dwyer’s former coach Matt Barber.

Australian 400m track finalist Joel Bee (5.25m) also has his sights on winning the Ballarat Gift after a strong showing at Stawell.

Bee was a semi-finalist at Central Park but is keen to claim victory on home turf.

Dual Stawell Gift finalist and Ballarat university student Kevin Brittain has declared Ballarat his “home Gift” because his hometown Geelong does not have one.

Brittain told The Courier post-race at Stawell he was confident he could win at Ballarat this week and yesterday his feelings had not swayed.

“Ballarat was my goal since finishing runner-up last season and it’s been my goal all season to come out here and win,” Brittain said.

“It’s not a bad way to finish, winning the second biggest gift in Australia.”

The 21-year-old is carrying a hamstring niggle into the weekend but was confident it would hold up for the two-day hit-out.

Also flying the Ballarat flag will be Nathan Fox (7.75m) in heat five, Rob Lehmann (8.5m) in heat three, Troy Kenny (9.5m) in heat four and Mathews (11m) in heat seven.

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