Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin controversially won the Stawell Gift on Monday but has been fined $2000 by stewards who said her form improved more in two weeks than most athletes expected in a lifetime.
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Talia Martin's controversial win
Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin won the Stawell Gift on Monday but has been fined $2000 by stewards who questioned her âextremeâ improvement in recent weeks.
Martin improved by seven metres in her heat on Saturday compared with a run at the Ararat Gift 12 days ago. Stewards fined her for an improvement in the extreme range.
"I would say it definitely does (damage confidence in the race and the result) – no doubt," said chief steward Brian Marantelli.
"It is like, in the horse racing game, getting beaten in a maiden at Pakenham and 12 days later wining the Cox Plate or something. That might be a bit over the top."
Martin was called in by stewards on Sunday because of her extreme range improvement, which is anything more than four metres in a short space of time.
"When she got here, she ran seven metres quicker than in Ararat which is more than most runners improve in a lifetime," Marantelli said.
"In our sport that is called improvement of extreme range. Extreme range stops at four metres so she was well off the chart for improvement in a short space of time."
Marantelli said Martin's father and coach, Peter O'Dwyer, admitted Martin had done the wrong thing and appealed the severity of the $2000 fine but not the verdict. The appeals panel reduced the fine from $2000 to $500 but also imposed a fine of the first $1500 of any prizemoney she might win.
"She hadn't done anything illegal as far as her handicap goes. The only reason she could get pulled (back in her handicap) is if she had run a PB somewhere that we didn't know about and she hadn't done that, she had just run poorly," Marantelli said.
The rapid improvement would not have changed her handicap as that is based on her best performances, but the poor recent form is significant for the track betting and the spirit of competition. No unusual betting patterns were observed.
The controversy overshadowed the performance of the slightly built schoolgirl from Ballarat.
Martin said after the race on Monday that prior to the Ararat race she had been emotionally overcome by an aunt's death.
"From Ararat Gift I didn't run my best, it was kind of when my aunty Barb died so I was really emotional and I just had to get past that and it obviously shook me up a bit," she said..
"I just have so many emotions running through me. I am excited and happy and overwhelmed. I can't believe it has happened. Aunty Barb always came down to Stawell with us and it's been really hard without her.
"Hopefully she is watching me from up in heaven and she is proud."
Martin was the quickest of the women in the semi-final and carried that form into the final, holding on to outlast fast-finishing Tierra Exum – the sister of basketballer Dante.
O'Dwyer, who is expected to be quizzed by Victorian Athletics League officials over the extreme improvement controversy said he would not appeal the stewards' decision.
"We will live with it. She has got $40,000 (prizemoney), why create any more controversy?" he said.
The $40,000 winner's cheque – last year prize money for the race was increased to parity with the men's gift – would be well spent, Martin said.
"I have always wanted a hover board, but I have never been allowed, so hopefully a few hundred goes towards that and I will save the rest," she said.