Victorian-based Tasmanian Jacob Despard has taken out the men’s final of the Stawell Gift, on his sixth attempt in a row at the title.
The 21-year-old held off last year’s winner Matthew Rizzo and second-placed Melbourne runner Hamish Adams, to win the 137th Gift with a time of 12.12 seconds.
Despard beat US Olympian hurdler Devon Allen in the semi-finals and qualified for the final with the fastest time.
He was swamped by family and friends, who travelled across the country to watch him race, as soon as he crossed the finish line.
“My mother and my Nan have flown over from Tasmania and my Dad is from Western Australia,” Despard said.
“They are just so supportive of me and I’m just so happy they made the effort to come and watch me today.
“It’s always been my dream to win the Stawell Gift and I’ve tried for the last six years.”
Despard said he planned to save most of his $40,000 winnings.
“$40,000 is a lot of money,” he said.
“I’ve just moved to Melbourne and I spent a lot of money for the move.
“I’m only 21, so I don’t have the most money going around, so I’ll save some to help me through the next six to 12 months, and then I think I’ll spend a bit as well just to reward myself.”
Despard praised his coach Scott Rowsell for the win.
“I wouldn’t like to know the amount of hours in the last six months to get me to where I am today — he’s worked tirelessly,” Despard said.
“The last six months have been going towards this race, I’ve been working so hard and to cross that line and to win, it’s just unbelievable.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet I’ve got to say, it’s just crazy.”
Despard said he loved competing in the Stawell Gift and hoped to be back next year to defend his title.
Female winner thanks her family
Queensland university student Elizabeth Forsyth took out the women’s Stawell Gift in a dramatic finish, falling over the finish line with a time of 13.69 seconds.
The 22-year-old beat second-placed Pamela Austin with a time of 13.69 seconds.
The emotional athlete thanked her parents watching at home from the Gold Coast and her coach Brett Robinson.
“They’ve all rallied behind me this year and I can’t thank them enough for all that they’ve done for me,” Forsyth said.
The surf lifesaver also took home $40,000 prize money for her win.