Sport Athletics Luke Versace takes thriller Stawell Gift

Luke Versace takes thriller Stawell Gift

Stawell Gift winner Luke Versace.
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Brad Armstrong won as coach and runner on a dramatic Easter Monday at Stawell.

The main event was coaching Luke Versace to a dramatic victory in the Stawell Gift, and in doing so, following in the footsteps of his father Evan Armstrong.

But then the triumphant coach pulled on his spikes and fronted up for the 400m frontmarkers final, coming from sixth at the turn to claim another stunning win.

“Nothing will ever better coaching a Stawell Gift winner,” said the 29-year-old who is two years younger than Gift winner Versace.

“What I did just then (winning the 400m) in the big scheme of things didn’t matter to me.

“I’d already won and that’s just a bonus.”

Evan Armstrong was a coaching fixture at Stawell for many years, playing a key part in the Gift triumphs of Chris Perry, Dallas O’Brien and Glenn Chapman in the 1980s.

“When dad was in partnership with Neil King they trained three winners,” Brad Armstrong said.

“Then Neil King trained one more on his own.

“Dad never trained one on his own.”

Versace said Armstrong deserved plenty of the credit for his victory.

“I don’t know how many people have had a Stawell Gift coach who is younger than the athlete, but this guy has the head of a 50-year-old,” he said.

“He is so measured.

“I like taking short cuts which is why it took so long to get here.

“With him there are no short cuts, there’s no getting out of anything.

“He’s always had an unwavering belief in me.”