Rizzo brilliant in emphatic Stawell Gift win

Langwarrin teenager Matthew Rizzo used the motivation of defeat last year to take him to a commanding win in the Stawell Gift on Monday.

Rizzo, 18, was never going to do anything but win and collected the $40,000 first prize from the time he left the blocks.

He quickly found the lead from his 7.5-metre mark and was in a race of his own as he matched his heat-winning time of 12.10 seconds – the fastest of the weekend and 0.2 faster than his semi-final-win.

No one else broke 12.20 for the weekend, with Nathan Riali’s 12.27 next best in the semi-finals.

Rizzo said he had been extremely disappointed when fifth in last year’s final – seeing it as a lost opportunity – and had been determined to improve on that performance.

He put his improvement down to a better training regime and greater commitment.

Rizzo is trained by Queensland-based Brett Robinson, with fellow sprinter Matt Carter providing hands-on supervision in Victoria.

He was trained by Bruce Gulliver before joining Robinson's Viking Athletics squad. 

While he did not feel any pressure from being a clear-cut favourite for Gift right through the three-day carnival, he admitted there were still plenty of pre-race nerves.

“I was really nervous behind the blocks.”

Rizzo, who had previously won a 400m at Stawell, said all he wanted to do was run.

“That’s what I have been trained to do. I had tunnel vision and all I wanted to do was get to the finish.”

Carter said Rizzo’s preparation was “absolutely” perfect. 

“He’s done a phenomenal job. He’s put in the hard yards and done everything right.”

Rizzo first linked up with Carter as a 15-year-old in a chance meeting at Bunnings, where he works on a casual basis.

Rizzo’s mother Debbie said her son had handled the build-up to the Gift and everything that went with it extremely well.

“He thrives on pressure.”

HOW THEY FINISHED

1 Matthew Rizzo

2 Nathan Riali 

3 Kyle Grubnic

4 Michael Voumard 

5 Michael Romanin 

6 Andrew Campbell