Ballarat speedster Joel Bee chasing Maryborough Gift sash

BALLARAT speedster Joel Bee is not concerned about his narrow 2.75-metre mark for the Maryborough Gift on New Year’s Day.

The 20-year-old says he would have been happy to run off scratch.

Bee, the reigning Albury Gift champion, is a confirmed starter for just two professional meets this season – Maryborough next week, and the Albury Gift on January 27 – before his attention swings back to the amateur scene and upcoming international events in February and Marsh, in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

So, he reasons, he has to make every post a winner in the gift races.

“I want to win Maryborough and I am in the form to win with that mark,” Bee said yesterday. 

“I would have been happy to run off scratch. When you are at the back you have to run everyone down, but you also have to relax so it is good training for me.

“Because my focus is still the amateur races, there’s no real pressure on me. I’d still rather wear an Australian singlet than win $40,000 (at a professional meeting). When I say that some people think I’m crazy.”

Bee hinted, depending on his schedule, he may also contest the Stawell Gift at Easter, but insisted that would only be the case if it did not clash with his amateur running preparation.

Coach Paul Cleary said the main game was “a world championship spot in the relay this year and a Commonwealth Games solo spot after that”.

However, he said, the professional gift races may provide some advantages in preparing for the international events anyway.

“It does him good to be chasing people,” Cleary said. “The other thing is the distance. Running 120m in the pros is good training in that it teaches him to run through the distance and relax for the last 40m. That’s what it’s about.

“We haven’t decided about Stawell yet. It is the week before nationals and Joel is very competitive. I wouldn’t want him to injure himself lunging for the line. It might be better to train or compete on a rubber track. 

“He tried to lunge at the line at Stawell last year and it ruined his shot at nationals, and I’d prefer he not do that this year.”

Cleary said Bee’s fitness had benefited from a decision to concentrate on 100m and 200m races rather than the 400m.