BALLARAT sprinter Matt Wiltshire is set to embark on a new season as the defending Stawell Gift champion.
But things will be much tougher this time around for the 21-year-old after winning Australia’s greatest footrace.
Wiltshire’s handicap will be pulled heavily throughout the Victorian Athletic League season, starting tomorrow at the Terang Gift.
He will start from 3.25 metres as the lone backmarker in the 120 metre feature.
Wiltshire said he would be giving his nearest rival almost two metres this weekend, but believed it was a fair handicap after his victory at Stawell.
“After winning Stawell you usually get (pulled) about four meteres,” Wiltshire, who has also nominated for the 70 metre backmarkers, said.
“The closest person is one-and-three-quarter metres in front of me. That makes it a bit diffucult.”
Wiltshire is already plotting his return to Stawell next year, where he says it will be a more enjoyable experience after the pressures of being pre-race favourite last Easter.
“To go back-to-back would be the dream, but obviously it will be a lot tougher this year and I have to improve pretty much four meteres with my times.
“That is a fair bit in sprinting,” he said.
“If I made the final that would be amazing. I know I haven’t got much chance of winning it but making the final would be fantastic.”
Wiltshire said he planned on being at his peak fitness leading in to Stawell and hoped to pick-up a couple of gift events around that time of the season.
But it’s not just the professional circuit Wiltshire has his sights set on this campaign.
Recording a time quick enough to qualify for a return to the national championships is one of his main goals.
Wiltshire was invited to compete in the national 100 metres following his Stawell Gift triumph earlier this year.
He finished ranked equal 22nd in the event won by Joshua Ross in 10.23sec.