A runner from Ballarat, Australia was fined for extreme improvement between races after winning the Stawell Gift, one of the nation’s oldest and most popular short distance races, on Monday.
Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin was fined AUD$2,000 for “improving more in two weeks than a typical athlete does in a lifetime,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The event is like any other track event, with heats and finals, except certain runners are given a head start based on historical performances in an effort to level the playing field. The finish line runs through a set of gates, similar to a horse race.
The winner of the girl’s race wins AUD$40,000 and athletes get staggered starts known as a handicap. It’s claimed that Martin’s improvement is controversial since she improved by several seconds compared to her past results though her father claims earlier results were simply “poor races.”
The race is 120 metres, run up a slight gradient and takes place on a grass track, similar in cut to a green on a golf course. Martin covered the distance in 13.70 seconds, narrowly ahead of second-place finisher Tierra Exum.
With a properly-calculated handicap, each runner should cross the line at approximately the same time.
A photo posted by #StawellGift (@stawellgift) on
Unlike our track meets, gambling is also allowed in the venue as people place bets on runners. Gambling is something that particularly makes an issue like this one extra controversial. When giving runners handicaps, others have their money on the line.
Martin was eliminated in the heats of a previous race weeks ago after raising concerns among race officials after she bested the field on Monday. She claims a death in the family contributed to her a slow time on that occasion, which had an impact on her handicap.
Chief steward Brian Marantelli added that the result does damage to the reputation of race and raises concern on the accuracy of the handicaps.
Footage of the race can be found below with Martin having a sizable head start (the numbers at the beginning are the length, in metres, of their head start):
Stawell is located approximately 200 kilometres north of Melbourne and the event, officially known as Woolworths Stawell Gift, takes place annually over Easter with the finale taking place on Monday. The 15-year-old runner says she wants to buy a hoverboard with the prize money and save the rest.
Below is Martin posing with the novelty cheque.
Think Martin’s comeback is impressive? Watch this video of a 4x400m relay team recovering from a dropped baton.