It's time to party for Matthew Wiltshire after Stawell Gift win
By Scott Gullan
April 10, 2012
MATTHEW Wiltshire hasn't been much fun at parties
in recent months.
The 2012 Stawell Gift Final at Central Park in Stawell - Matthew Wiltshire celebrates after crossing the finish line Picture: Stephen Harman HWT Image Library
While the beers and good times have been all the rage with his university mates in Ballarat, Wiltshire, 20, put his social life on hold because of his dream of winning the Stawell Gift.
It paid off yesterday with the $40,000 winner's cheque going his way after an action-packed 131st edition of Australia's richest foot race.
"I've sacrificed so much," Wiltshire said. "All my mates are crazy drinkers and to stop that altogether is such a big thing for me.
"I've been going to parties and just sort of standing there with my water bottle.
"I'd be standing in the corner and I wasn't too much fun, but it's all worth it now.
"Also my diet has been terrible. I've been eating just vegies and tuna, horrible stuff, and I'm never eating that stuff again.
"Just get me some KFC now and I'll be good."
Wiltshire, off 8m, took advantage of an injury to favourite John Steffensen midway through the race to claim victory in 12.22sec from East Bentleigh's Douglas Greenough (9.5m) and AFL boundary umpire Adam Coote (11m).
Steffensen, the Commonwealth Games 400m champion, was a raging $1.60 favourite after producing the run of yesterday's semi-finals, clocking 12.14sec, even after being pulled back a metre for a false start.
Wiltshire, who had been backed to $3 favourite before Saturday's heats, won his semi-final in 12.22sec but admitted Steffensen had him concerned on the start line.
"I was a bit worried about Steffensen," Wiltshire said.
"I knew he was one I had to worry about, but I was confident from the training times that I could run a lot quicker than I had in the semi.
"I sort of died a bit in the semi over the last 10m. I sort of stumbled a bit, so I knew I could have a good run in the final, but then I got off to a terrible start.
"When my eyes got up after that I thought, 'S---, here we go. I'm not going to win this'. But then I kicked and just kept going.
"I just had so much in me and I think it was because I knew how much I wanted it.
"I've been training for this for so long. It's just the best feeling in the world.
"When I crossed the line first, it was amazing."
Wiltshire's coach, Peter O'Dwyer - who at the age of 45 ran in the semi-finals yesterday - said the steel Wiltshire showed under the pressure suggested he had a future in the amateur ranks, with a relay spot in an Australian team not out of the question.
"He has got the commitment. Not everyone can turn out and train seven days a week and train hard," O'Dwyer said.
Canberra's Melissa Breen, who is pushing for selection in the London Olympics, won the women's Gift in 13.95sec.