Wisil headlines golden Gift

ONE TO WATCH:  Toea Wisil practises her sprint drills on a previous visit to Limestone Park for the Ipswich Winter Carnival.


Athletics:  Split across the track like a spilt packet of jaffas.

That is a favourite phrase of Ipswich Winter Carnival race caller Graham Bannister, and will be one of many the veteran pulls from his bag of tricks.

The 36th running of the annual event hits Bill Paterson Oval tomorrow.

“He makes things exciting, it’s just like calling a racehorse meeting, he has his own little phrases,” Ipswich & District Athletic Club president Vic Pascoe said.

“We do have to reign him in occasionally, but that’s all part of the deal.”

Billed as the start of the Ipswich athletics season, Pascoe has been involved with the Winter Carnival since its inception and believes this year’s fields for the Lightning and Ladies Gifts are among the best he has seen.

“In the women’s I would say it’s the best field we’ve put together, it’s exceptional,” Pascoe said as he scanned the list of 16 runners.

“For the men, with the international competitors we’ve attracted it would go close to being near the top.”

2017 Australian 100m and 200m champion Toea Wisil returns off the back of a World Athletics Championships campaign, and will run the 120m race from scratch.

“The (PNG) people see her as an icon so to speak, they cheer madly for her no matter where she runs,” Pascoe said of the dual Australia-PNG citizen dubbed ‘Queen of the Pacific’.

“She competed at the 2016 Olympics and at the Oceania Championships this year she set a new record.  Toea will be difficult to beat.”

Last year’s winner Larissa Chambers returns as a local hope, but in splitting time with her Athletics Australia commitments in Darwin Pascoe feels the Redbank Plains athlete may be up against it to go back-to-back.

Pascoe named Tamara Hotten as the one most likely to upset Wisil this year ― the Brisbane runner has been in impressive form at recent interclub meets and will start off 4.75m.

“It will be close between her and Toea, she’ll need that 4.75m to beat her but she’s running extremely well,” Pascoe said of Hotten.

Hotten will also vie to become just the second woman in the history of the event to make the finals of the men’s event, but Pascoe feels it may go against her.

“The issue is the number of races she’ll have to do, you’ve got to be full-on, it’s not a case of taking it easy to get into the finals,” he said.

2016 Lightning Gift winner Nicholas Grant will return from injury to take his place in the event on Sunday, and if he can return to the kind of form he showed last year, Pascoe sees a return to the final for the local lad.

In an even field, Pascoe highlighted a number of names to keep an eye on.

“Sam Coleman is a very strong lad, he would definitely have the ability to go on (and win),” Pascoe said.

“The PNG boys (Theo Piniau and Nazmie Lee Marai) have trained on the Gold Coast and look quite strong.  Lorenz Ryan is a bit of a dark horse ― I haven’t seen him sprinting recently be I know he has a lot of ability.”

The heats for the Ladies and Lightning Gift begin at 10am and 10.30am respectively, and the finals will run from 3pm.

Other track and field events start at 9.30am tomorrow.