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  • the Stawell Gift

    OK, browsing the net after being reminded of Jean Louis Ravelomanantsoa, I stumbled onto the Stawell Gift. I have never heard of it previously, although it seems like something anyone who posts here should have known about forever! It is an Australian footrace festival that sounds just like the trackmeet in the film Gallipoli... people run wierd distances with the fastest ones given handicaps. Apparently in 1975 Ravelomanantsoa became the only person to ever win the sprint race "from scratch" by running 120 meters in 12.0 (?), thus overhauling the race favorites who started 6.5 and 7.25 metres in front of him, respectively! According to the website (below) they have been doing this event since 1878. Has anyone been there or really understand how they run this thing or even heard of this before? It sounds really cool!

    http://www.stawellgift.com/

  • #2
    Re: the Stawell Gift

    I seem to remember that Warren Edmonson (NCAA champ from UCLA who went pro w/ ITA) had a long career of running the race.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: the Stawell Gift

      Right, gh, he is on the website's "legends" page... he seems to be the only elite American who caught on to this whole thing.

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      • #4
        Re: the Stawell Gift

        Apparently in 1975 Ravelomanantsoa became the only person to ever
        >win the sprint race "from scratch" by running 120 meters in 12.0 (?), thus
        >overhauling the race favorites who started 6.5 and 7.25 metres in front of him,
        >respectively! According to the website (below) they have been doing this event
        >since 1878. Has anyone been there or really understand how they run this thing
        >or even heard of this before?

        They hold a similar race here in Great Britain every New Year's Day. It's called the New Year's Day sprint.They run the race from different handicaps depending what their 100m PR is, or what their PR is over the given distance which they run in this race (I believe the distance is 120yds)

        There's more information about this event at the following website;

        http://www.sportingworld.co.uk/newyearsprint/index.html

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        • #5
          Re: the Stawell Gift

          Great pix on the website depicting the event in the UK! Do people bet on the outcomes? The Stawell Gift seems to have several distances, is that the case in Britain. This certainly seems like a lot more fun on New Year's Day than watching endless parades and meaningless bowl games on TV.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: the Stawell Gift

            I believe I'm in contention for geekiest track history fan of all time. On a visit to friends in Melbourne a decade or so ago, we drove out to Stawell (pronounced "Stall" as I remember) to see the "Gift" grounds. The stadium looked to me like it had been built in the 1920s or so; I would imagine the event has been held on the same grounds since its beginning in 1877. The Stawell Gift is a throwback to the pre-amateurism days of track and field--in fact, it's a direct survivor of the pedestrianism era of the mid-nineteenth century. It's one of the few athletic [i.e. t&f] sub-cultures in the world that has survived all these years on a strictly (and proudly) professional basis. On my visit, I bought a book on the history of the event: "100 Stawell Gifts: Stawell Athletic Club, An Official History" (paperback, 206 pages). This has complete results for not only the first 100 years, 1877-1977, but also results up through 1980. (It's possible a more recent edition has been produced; I don't know.)

            The main event is the "Easter Gift," run over a distance of 120 meters (previously 130 yards; the entire program switched from yards to meters in 1973). There about 20 events in all, with names such as "Arthur Postle Handicap," "Bill Howard Handicap," etc. The distances range from 70 up to 3200 meters. All races, of course, are handicaps, which makes the outcomes entirely unpredictable. Betting, as a result, is hot and heavy.

            Jean-Louis R-, who won in 1975, was the first runner in the history of the event to win from scratch (that is, with no handicap advantage).

            If anyone is dying to know who won the Pleasant Creek Handicap for 1903, I'll be happy to pass the info along.

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            • #7
              Re: the Stawell Gift

              Yikes, you are a nerd legend, kuha! Except for being married and having a job I would book a flight to down under right now for this Easter's Stawell Gift!

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              • #8
                Betting?

                you betcha!! This is traditionally the way the pros make the real money. Handicaps are set based on recent performances so there are a lot of tricks that runners use to run a bit slower than their possible best in lead up events to get the best handicap at Stawell. Then they and friends load up with the bookies and hope for the win. This usually gives them more than the actual prize money which is still quite substantial.

                I think you underestimate the recent involvement of overseas athletes at Stawell. Try Jon Drummond, Obadele Thompson and Greg Sadler. If you want more information go to this Australian site and ask Youngy.
                http://pub19.ezboard.com/ftrackstarsfrm ... =583.topic

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                • #9
                  Re: the Stawell Gift

                  I just don't get the whole idea of 'handicap races'. In fact, it's a contradiction in terms - racing is about proving who's the best. When it's about whether runner A can run 116 meters faster than runner B can run 111 meters, there's really no point. The 'races' are then just an insignificant addition to the betting.
                  Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

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                  • #10
                    Re: the Stawell Gift

                    Powell, what you're missing is the element of competition--when "natural advantages" are (in theory) neutralized by handicapping, every race comes down to the smallest nuances (smarts, luck, etc.). Every race becomes unpredictable and exciting...exactly the opposite of all too many "normal" track races in which (generally speaking) the best people trounce the less-good people every time. This is, in essence, track for the general spectator and the bookie (it does, in fact, have a close connection with horse racing). This is the way t&f BEGAN (in the pedestrianism era).

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                    • #11
                      Re: the Stawell Gift

                      >I just don't get the whole idea of 'handicap races'. In fact, it's a
                      >contradiction in terms - racing is about proving who's the best. When it's
                      >about whether runner A can run 116 meters faster than runner B can run 111
                      >meters, there's really no point. The 'races' are then just an insignificant
                      >addition to the betting.

                      It looks that way because you are comparing it to modern track and field, which is a different sport to the professional era of the late 19th/early 20th century of which the Stawell Gift is a delightful relic. The purpose of the modern sport is to determine the fastest/highest/longest. The purpose of handical races is betting, not the competition. Compare the Stwawell Gift to a horse race for a better comparison, not modern track.

                      The pro scene in the UK was particularly huge - match-ups between 'name' sprinters attracted huge crowds, tens of thousands. On one famous occasion an angry crowd burned down the stadium (Alexandra Palace? or was it White City?) when the race was called off...because the backers could not agree who was going to win!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: the Stawell Gift

                        >The Stawell Gift
                        >is a delightful relic. The purpose of the modern sport is to determine the
                        >fastest/highest/longest. The purpose of handical races is betting, not the
                        >competition. Compare the Stwawell Gift to a horse race for a better comparison,
                        >not modern track.

                        But that's exactly the point I was making ! The running is incidental here, the gambling is the important part. I can understand why it would excite some people, but the true T&F fans should be trying to forget that era, not 'delighting' in it...
                        Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

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                        • #13
                          Re: the Stawell Gift

                          It's a mistake to think that the running and competitive aspect of these events is of no importance. Not true, as I tried to suggest in my post above. And a "true" track fan should appreciate the colorful history of the sport rather than attempting to deny it.

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                          • #14
                            Re: the Stawell Gift

                            I'm with you, kuha! You are my current hero! These throwback races are relics of our sport that ought to be valued and preserved. The site el toro gives above with tips about how to assess the handicaps of various runners vis-a-vis their recent performances, etc. is fabulous. Yes, it reads like the Racing Form and the betting seems to be a primary draw, but the betting is predicated on the races. Personally, I think it would be really fun to see world class runners matched up against all kinds of folks in distance handicapped races. Rooting for some masters runner with a 20 meter headstart trying to hold off the closing speed of an elite sprinter would be a kick in the proverbial ass for spectators!

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                            • #15
                              Re: the Stawell Gift

                              Hey, thanks! It's nice to be someone's hero, although my feet are most definitely clay. I am very interested in the history of the sport and the multiple threads or influences that came together to produce what we now know--and perhaps mistakenly take for granted. I personally think that the pre-AAU era (before ca. 1886) was one of the greatest periods of US track and field. It was a lively, free-wheeling, & fun period in which the athletes themselves (and the leaders of their clubs) were in charge of their own destinies. The imposition of hardcore amateurism effectively shifted control over the sport from the athletes to governing bodies...and some vital lifeblood went out of it all. At any rate, I do think it's fascinating that some aspect of this "pre-historic" time has lived on in the Stawell Gift.

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