NEWLY crowned Stawell Gift champion Matt Wiltshire never once forgot where he came from amid the whirlwind of media commitments and public exposure that followed his historic victory.
Wiltshire finally returned to Ballarat mid-afternoon yesterday, having barely stopped moving after he crossed the gates at Central Park a little before 3pm on Easter Monday.
The 20-year-old was humbled to have made Ballarat so proud along his Easter journey.
“I’ve got messages from Mum and Dad saying people I’ve never heard of were so proud of me and cheering loud for me at their televisions.’
“I’m so excited I made all Ballarat happy,” Wiltshire said.
“Thanks to all the support, it means a lot.”
Wiltshire was up for media rounds from 7.30am yesterday, starting with radio and moving to television.
It follows a long, hard-earned night of celebration in which he also pocketed $90 and a slab of beer for winning the standing triple jump at Stawell’s Gift Hotel.
While the prize might pale in comparison to the $40,000 he took home for winning Australia’s richest footrace, Wiltshire said the competition was still tough — he had to beat a contender from Jamaican Olympic hopeful Michael Frater’s camp.
Click to view photos from the Stawell Gift
Wiltshire left the track about 7pm Monday after meeting all commitments, including a lengthy drug testing process, but managed to fit in a private moment with family and close friends to watch the race replay on television.
He twice enjoyed McDonald’s yesterday — breakfast and lunch — after a year on a strict, vegetable-based diet in a bid to achieve his dream.
“I’m still on a high, it still hasn’t sunk in. This is pretty much what I have been dreaming of achieving the past couple of years,” Wiltshire said.
“The novice (120m) title in Ballarat last year gave me a taste of winning and made me want to aspire more than ever to win at Stawell.
“When I crossed the line, it was amazing.”
Wiltshire was surprised by the interest in his story from the moment he crossed the finishing gates and said he was lucky to have coach Peter O’Dwyer by his side to help navigate all the post-race attention.
His grandfather John Wiltshire was a key figure in the tale, having entered the Stawell Gift as race favourite in 1958 only to withdraw with a torn hamstring.
Wiltshire had not had a chance to see his grandfather yesterday but said his proud pa had been reading as many newspaper articles as he could on the race.
A return to Central Park next year is high on Wiltshire’s agenda — he will run the Victorian Athletic League season again but knows it will be tough as reigning Stawell champion when his mark will be dramatically pulled back.
Wiltshire said he was “never in better nick than now” — but you never know what he could achieve next.