A photo essay...
For the unitiated, The Stawell Gift is the oldest foot race in the world. It's been going since 18-something, and I think it used to offer (and may still offer) the highest prizemoney for a single race (though of course, top athletes get 'appearance money' and sponsor dollars at world-class events, but all they actually 'win' is a medal... in Stawell, the winner gets cash).
It is run over 120 metres and is handicapped. In other words, only one or two runners actually run the full 120 metres, the rest get headstarts based on their form leading up to it. So the fastest runner doesn't necessarily win. It's just first past the post. Oh, and you can bet on the race with bookies, which I did, and lost $20 on a fella called 'Davies' who I got at twenty-ones early in the day. He came third. Anyway. There's not just the gift, there's other races.
I was the guest of an athletic family, and one of them was the coach of a young lad competing in the 200m. On Saturday, he had posted the fastest heat time, and here he is setting up his blocks for the semi-final on Monday.
It's lonely out there, but I was bucking tradition and yelling out things like, "Go boy... you can do it... what are your legs? Springs! Steel springs!" but I was embarrassing my hosts so I shutup.
He won the semi-final and there was much celebrating in our camp. One of our boys was looking good for the final! But although he ran just as fast in the final, two other men found an extra yard or two and beat him. Here he is coming third (in yellow for the final).
One thing I was informed about the night before by my hosts is that there are hot chicks everywhere at the Stawell Gift (and hot guys). They were not wrong. You can keep your nightclubs and catwalks... running events is where the hot chicks are because they are all supremely fit and healthy, and wear skimpier clothes than just about anywhere but the beach. It was incredible, and I felt like a scrawny, unfit ogre. Which I am. It was awkward walking around there - there were hundreds of athletes, and their friends and families and everyone was so freaking HEALTHY and so many of them were BEAUTIFIUL. I found two other cigarette smokers in the whole crowd, and they were staff.
But none come hotter than Tamsyn Lewis of course, because aside from being a hottie, she is also supremely talented - a fact made evident by the fact that she wasn't in the 800m (which she has run three times at The Olympics) or the 400m (which she is reigning Australian champion, flat, and hurdles) but in the 120m! In a sprint! She's not a sprinter! Or is she now? What can't she do (in spikes on tracks between 100m and 800m)?
Here she is in a semi-final of the sprint, coming down the track with a real sprinter in red next to her, and some other chicks.
Inexplicably, she won! And in doing so, was about 2 metres from me (which, by the way, she also was earlier in the day, and there was nobody else within earshot, but I chickened out on saying anything because she was training at the time and I didn't want to disturb her). Here she is, right next to us.
And then, after congratulating the other runners, she disrobed, thus adding to the theatre of the occassion.
Then the final came. Here she is a few minutes before the race, acquainting herself with the track, and I was all conflicted becauyse I'm there thinking, "Oh God, that chick in lane 1 in red is really really HOT!" (Her name is Laura Whaler - ranked 5 in the country over 100m).
And the race is on! Twenty metres to go, and Tamsyn is flying down Lane 2, having got the measure of the hot chick in Lane 1 and reeling in the rest of them.
But she ends up coming second to the complete unknown in the yellow, who was very, very excited.
And I'm yelling out, "Good run yellow! Good run Tamsyn! Marry me and have my babies, red chick!"
And anyway, that was it for Tamsyn. She went off and started yapping to some other hot chick that I would also like to marry... (Melissa Breen - 2nd fastest woman in the country)
...and I went and had a cigarette in the lovely gardens, which are surely the most manicured gardens of any country footy ground in the nation.
The Gift itself was run, and we sat up in the old stand on the back straight. Although we were a mile away, we were right on the finish line and could see the race well enough.
Some 18 year old kid won it easily, and give him a few years and his name will be a household name, but unfortunately, 8 hours later, I;ve already forgotten it. But go him!
All in all, I recommend the Stawell Gift to the TSFKA Victorian readers. The event is kid-friendly (rides, activities), there's hot chicks and guys everywhere, the ameneties are clean, it's a great Australian institution, and you get to see a few International level athletes up close (eg: Tamsyn Lewis, Joshua Ross)... closer than you'll get at any other event. Not to mention, driving there through all the cute little towns is fun in itself.
I left soon after the Gift, and listened to Richmond get fucking hammered again on the car radio, but I was clutching my own First Prize from the 2009 Stawell Gift.
Perseus Q Kneejerk:
Winner of the coveted Stawell 2009
"Most inappropriately dressed spectator"
Fuck yers all. There should be more Texan Pirate Goths at the country sport carnivals!