Brad Armstrong reflects on tireless Gift work

Brad Armstrong, who coached the winner of the 2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift had a win of his own in the final of the Stawell Family Central Park 400 metres handicap. Picture: MARK McMILLAN.

Brad Armstrong, who coached the winner of the 2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift had a win of his own in the final of the Stawell Family Central Park 400 metres handicap. Picture: MARK McMILLAN.

STAWELL - More than two weeks has passed since Brad Armstrong coached Luke Versace to win the Australia Post Stawell Gift and it is yet to sink in.

After a ten year friendship Versace asked Armstrong to train him as the two casually sipped red wine.

"When he first came to me I told him straight out," Armstrong said.

"Don't bother wasting our time, this is what I expect from you and this is what I believe is enough to win.

"You're either in or you're out."

The pair had worked tirelessly for a year after Versace finished in the bottom six of all the competitors last year.

Versace was an early favourite with the bookmakers in 2014 and knowing it was such an open field Armstrong was confident in their preparation.

"It's one thing to have a plan to win the Stawell Gift," Armstrong said.

"You don't just win it though, everything has to go right."

The Stawell Gift carnival has long been a part of the Armstrong history with Brad's father Evan having competed and coached at Stawell.

"I've never missed a Stawell Gift," Armstrong said.

"I'm almost 30 years old and I still love it as much as the first time I came."

While Armstrong's father was involved with several gift winners he never reach the ultimate glory his son did a fortnight ago.

"For me the most important thing was to win it on my own," Armstrong said.

"Just Luke and I, we didn't really need anyone else."

From very early on Armstrong had set goals in place and Versace went about reaching each one.

After ticking each milestone Versace got fitter and fitter.

A slow 2012-2013 season had seen Versace put on 12 kilograms resulting in him lacking strength.

"We worked really hard to drop the weight," said Armstrong.

"He was doing all the training and just getting no where so we went to a dietitian."

A dietitian for Versace encouraged a change of diet and he then loss the weight he needed to.

Adding to the drama Versace almost found himself in hospital on three occasions after suffering what they thought were diabetic episodes.

According to Armstrong after losing the weight the strength that Versace gained was incredible.

As well as coaching Armstrong also had a successful run in the 400 metre frontmarkers handicap.

"Whatever I did on that day was just one percent of a great day," Armstrong said.

"Coaching the Stawell Gift winner, that is the pinnacle of my career.

"Winning a 400 metre is not even close."

Armstrong topped a perfect couple of weeks by celebrating his 30th birthday and his recent engagement.

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