News of reduced prizemoney for the 2019 Stawell Gift has shocked the athletics community.
Last year’s Gift champions have expressed concerns about the impact it may have but are hopeful the event’s history will continue to lure elite runners.
The total prize pool for the and open women’s Gifts has dropped by more than half for this year’s event, with $17,000 up for grabs for each winner, down from $40,000 for last years winners.
2018 men’s Gift winner Jacob Despard said the news came as a shock to him.
“When I first heard it my immediate reaction was disappointment,” he said.
“It is more disappointing for whoever wins this year. $40,000 to win it is essentially a wage for a full year.
“I devoted my whole year to that race and now looking at the prizemoney you do have to question a little bit if it is worth it.
“Overall it is that broader thing about Stawell that people’s ears prick up when you say how much it is worth. Now it has dropped by more than half.”
Women’s champion Elizabeth ‘EJ’ Forsyth will be back again in 2019. Despite travelling from Queensland with a large group of athletes, Forsyth said the drop in dollars is “not really a factor”.
READ MORE: 2019 Stawell Gift prize pool reduced
“When you think about Stawell it is mostly about the history. I loved being apart of it and the money doesn’t really make too much of a difference to me or my team,” she said.
“Obviously it is disappointing and not ideal but it is a tough situation. It might put off athletes who come from overseas or distant parts of Australia but for me I will definitely be back and am looking forward to it once again.”
Despard said he will also return to try and defend his title this year but thinks the reduced amount will come at a cost for other athletes.
...you do have to question a little bit if it is worth itJacob Despard - 2018 Stawell Gift champion
“The prestige of the Stawell Gift is massive and I will still support is as much as I ever have,” he said.
“For other athletes though they might be looking at other events like Bunbury which nearly have as much money as Stawell and opting for them instead.”
“Stawell will always be the number one.”
Despard thinks athlete numbers could be impacted but hopes the lure of the history and prestige of the event is enough to keep numbers up.
RELATED: RELIVE THE 2018 STAWELL GIFT ACTION
“I’m sure the majority of people coming would have already booked, they usually do it a year out,” he said.
“I think what Stawell means overall will also be a big part of why people will come this year.”
Despard said he hopes Stawell Athletic Club can track down a major sponsor and find a way to restore the prizemoney.
“Hopefully now the word is out there some attention can be drawn to find a a sponsor,” he said.
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