Central Park in Stawell

The Stawell Gift

The Stawell Gift is held annually in the town of Stawell, in country Victoria. It is run every Easter long weekend, on Central Park Oval. The Oval is very picturesque, with roses, fountains and a grandstand restored to its 1899 glory. The town itself was once a rich mining town. In the 1930s, three steam trains would bring crowds from Melbourne, and crowds of 30,000 were not unheard of. It is still a popular race, and nowadays crowds will still be close to 10,000.

The Gift is a handicap race, run over 120m for the back markers running off scratch. It is the oldest professional footrace in the world. It was first run in 1878, won by a farmer W. Millard. The prizes for the winner and runner up of the first race was a pig. Third place got a sheep. There are still great prizes to be won today, and the high cash prize attracts many interstate and international sprinters to this action packed weekend of running.

Here are some of the great moments in the history of this event:

  • In 2005 Joshua Ross became only the second man in the history of the race to win from scratch, the term for the back mark. This was his second win, having won off the mark of 7m in 2003
  • The great English sprinter Linford Christie competed in the 1999 sprint, though was beaten in his heat, struggling off the tough mark he was given.
  • The youngest winner ever was Jarrem Pearce, a 16 year old Wodonga schoolboy. He lost his heat but made it through to the final by winning his repecharge.

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