Fairytale win inspiring to Tasmanians

ANDREW Robinson won't be going back to back at the Stawell Gift in 2014, but his fairytale win last year seems to have inspired a swathe of his fellow Tasmanians to make the journey to the western Victorian town for the iconic Easter carnival with purpose.

The surprise 2013 champion was yesterday unable to overcome the major price of his success, the 3.75 metre pull in handicap that goes with it, finishing third in his heat and as a result not progressing to tomorrow's semi-finals.

But there are ongoing positives for the education graduate - being the face of the events marketing campaign and sharing the main stage with the likes of Mel Breen, Jana Pittman and John Steffensen at Friday's call of the card.

And there's the added bonus of the continual positive feedback of how well Robinson's professional, accommodating and enthusiastic nature comes across to the media, sponsors and to the fans alike.

It's perhaps no wonder that increased numbers of his Tasmanian athletics colleagues want to get a part of the action at the country's most famous athletics carnival, this year celebrating its 133rd edition.

Few observers could remember so much Apple Isle success on the first day at Stawell.

Leading the charge was Sam Lind, who won twice over two laps on the day from the back mark of 46 metres, to record a fine victory in the women's 800 metres. The $525 first prize, while a little smaller than others on offer over the three days, will come in handy towards the Australian team levy she needs to raise towards her participation in this year's world junior championships in Eugene in the US.

It may end up being a career- changing moment for the 18-year-old who until now has specialised at 400 metres.

Her training partners in Wayne Mason's squad, Kimberley Geelan and Michelle Davis, were also in the thick of the action, joining a third Tasmanian, Lilly Castle, in winning heats of the women's Gift. Another Mason charge, Lauren Gorringe, missed the tough progression to the semi-finals by just one place.

Geelan also won a heat of the open 70 metres, as did last year's Burnie Gift winner, Lind's fellow national junior teammate and Robinson's training partner - Jacob Despard.

As much as the Tasmanian interest seems to be growing, so has women's participation overall, with record numbers in both the 120 and 400 metres events. With 15 full heats in their gift, the girls are now closing in on their male counterparts, where the number of preliminaries has plateaued at 22 in recent years.

It's sure to ignite the debate whether, despite the long history of the men's race, the time has come to adjust at least partway the massive discrepancy between the relative prizemonies - the $60,000 for the men being ten times that available to the women.

In the 400 metres, the entry gap has closed even more, with today's nine women's heats almost matching yesterday's ten in the open races at the distance. And yes - the prizemoney story there doesn't match up either.

Perhaps worth pondering just what those hardy miners who dashed down the track for the first time in the famous race back in 1878 would make of all that.

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