Steffensen is back and all business
Tuesday March 27, 2012
The battle for the $40,000 winner’s prize has just got very intriguing, with 2003 world 100m champion Kim Collins set to hold a one metre advantage over Jamaican sprint star Michael Frater, following the release of handicaps today for the 131st running of Australia’s richest and most prestigious footrace.
In a further boost to the 146-strong Australia Post Stawell Gift 120m field, 2006 Commonwealth Games 400m champion John Steffensen has also announced that he will return for another crack at glory this Easter, and the banter has already begun with the flamboyant star laying down the challenge to his Caribbean rivals.
Frater, who is a member of the all-conquering, world-record holding Jamaican relay team and holds a 100m personal best time of 9.88 seconds, will start from the prestigious scratch mark this Easter and attempt to become just the third man in history to win from the mark of honour.
Run out in the semi finals last year off scratch, Collins is returning to complete unfinished business at Central Park and will start from one metre. The speedster from the tiny nation of St Kitts and Nevis will blow out 36 candles next Thursday, and will endeavour to become the oldest ever Gift winner at Central Park. Currently Scotsman George McNeil holds that esteemed title at 34 years, winning the Gift in 1981 on his eighth attempt.
Steffensen, who was also knocked out in the Gift semis last year running off 5m, has been handed six metres this Easter by the handicappers. After a frustrating couple of years of ongoing hamstring injuries, “TyRunasorous steFF” as he now proclaims himself, emphatically declared his return to form with a convincing victory over 400m at the recent Olympic trials.
“Last year was a warm up year for me and this year I've made some changes, changed my hair, changed my name and even did some training for the event when I heard Kim and Mike were running,” Steffensen said. “I got two wild dogs to chase me at training!”
“The way I see it is that with my mark I'm in business class and those boys are way back in economy. They can’t even see me, so I believe it's going to be a smooth flight for t-Steff and one hell of a long jet-lagged flight for them boys,” Steffensen joked.
2011 Gift finalist and the fastest Australian man over 200m this year, Andrew McCabe (3.25m) will have his eye on the big prize, as will reigning Australian 100m champion Aaron Rouge-Serret who will also be off 3.25m.
Last year’s winner Mitch Williams has been pulled back to 3m after taking home the big cheque last Easter. He will be joined on the start line by four other Gift champions, 2008 winner Sam Jamieson (4.75m), 2009 winner Aaron Stubbs (4.75m), 2006 winner Adrian Mott (5m) and 1999 winner Rodney Mathews (11m), who is one of the oldest runners in the field at 43 years of age.