Run, Rizzo, run! By Kate Sears

Weeks after winning the men’s Stawell Gift final, Matthew Rizzo is still on cloud nine. “The reality hasn’t sunk in yet,” Rizzo said.  And no wonder the high hasn’t worn off - this 18-year-old has been rewarded for two years of five-day training weeks with a $40,000 winner’s cheque after competing on April 17.  He’s now down in history as one of the youngest winners in the Gift’s 136-year existence after he powered through the race as any red-hot favourite would.

Rizzo told Frankly Frankston that it took a few minutes to realise what he’d just achieved after crossing the line in first place.  There was a sense of relief that rushed through him, a relief that everything had fallen into place, and he thought to himself: “I pulled it off.”

“I was unsure of my form on the day, until the heats went well,” said Rizzo.  He was the favourite at $1.35 after running by far the fastest time of the 22 heats on Saturday, April 15. Of course, mum Deb and coaches Brett Robinson and Matt Carter couldn’t be prouder.

At 15, while at his part-time job at Bunnings, the Langwarrin youngster approached Carter and asked if he could train with him, and the rest is history. “It’s a funny story, but it was just something I had to do,” said Rizzo, who has only been training seriously the past two years - not that you could tell.

What’s in store for the future has been running through Rizzo’s mind. The steps to achieve his long-term goal of competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games include beginning with state competitions, and then on to nationals.

The former Elisabeth Murdoch College student overcame a serious hip injury at age 12 but nevertheless sprung back to win the Stawell Little Athletics 400m and come second in the 100m sprint at the 2013 Stawell Gift.

After taking a few weeks off university classes leading up to the race, Rizzo is ready to hit the ground running as he launches back into reality.

Ask him how he juggles it all … if you can catch him!