New sprint king has sights on Stawell Gift
BY MELANIE WHELAN WITH AAP
20 Apr, 2011
NEWLY crowned Australian sprint king Aaron Rouge-Serret is vying to add a Stawell Gift title to his name this Easter.
The 23-year-old knows what victory at Central Park tastes like – he has won the invitational 120-metre backmarkers handicap twice – but the deepest he has been in Gift stakes is the semi-finals.
Rouge-Serret is in winning form having claimed the 100m and 200m sprint double at the national championships last weekend.
The Melbournian is still chasing A-qualifying standards for August’s IAAF world championships, which he will try to clock in Japan and Europe.
Stawell is a key part of his preparations.
“I’ll use this as a bit of training but I’m taking it pretty seriously as well,” Rouge-Serret said.
“It’s definitely something different having guys ahead of you that you have to chase down.
“Grass is good to race on ... Central Park has a hard grass track which should mean fast times.”
One of those he will have to chase is flamboyant sprinter John Steffensen, who has a mark of five metres.
Rouge-Serret, trained by Adam Larcom, will start off 1.25m - with only scratchman and former 100m world champion Kim Collins behind him.
Steffensen has already started a friendly war-of-words with his room-mate
“There’s good banter, pumping up the event a bit, but as soon as we step on the track it will be serious.”
Meanwhile, Collins is aiming to turn back the clock on his illustrious athletics career.
Collins, from the tiny Caribbean island of St Kitts and Nevis, came out of a 16-month retirement in January.
The 35-year-old showed he had lost none of his blistering speed as he clocked a personal best and the second-fastest time of the year at an indoor meet in Germany.
The Stawell Gift will be another step back in time for the 2003 world champion, who has run sub-10 seconds over 100m on four occasions.
He has not raced on grass for “about 14 years”.
The back marker has been watching YouTube footage of the 130-year old event to prepare himself for a charge at the $40,000 first prize.
“It’s good to try something different for a change,” he said.
“I’m very happy and excited to be back on grass where I started my early days of my career.”
The four-time Olympian said he was using the meet to continue his preparations for a tilt at the world championships, which will be his eighth title.