ALBURY-bred Stawell Gift winner Tom Burbidge has no doubt his best is still in front of him.
Burbidge, who stopped in his home town of 20 years on his way back to Canberra yesterday, will shoot for back-to-back titles in this weekend’s Ballarat Gift.
Like the Stawell Gift, Sunday’s event is a 120m dash but Burbidge is insistent he is at his best over 400m.
Asked if he thinks he can improve on Monday’s $40,000 effort, the Albury High School graduate was emphatic.
“Definitely, it’s one of the most exciting things about it all,” Burbidge said.
“I’ve got a lot I can improve on.”
After Ballarat, where the handicapper is expected to pull him back at least 3m from his 8.75m mark at Stawell, Burbidge will head to the Australian Open Track and Field Championships at Perth from April 16 where he will shift his focus to the 400m sprint.
“While it was good to win the Stawell Gift, it’s a handicap race and I ran off 8.75m when a lot of the national boys are off 2m or less, so I’m definitely a 400m runner,” he said.
“For me the Stawell Gift was more just an experience ... something to get out of my system and I’ve done that now.”
Past Stawell Gift winners have said the event changed their life, but Burbidge’s mind is very much on the future.
“I don’t know about life-changing but it’s certainly a lifetime experience,” he said.
“It’s been very intense — my phone’s been flat-out all day with a lot of phone calls and interviews so it’s very different.”
Although Burbidge turned 25 last week, the Canberra-based runner is a newcomer to athletics courtesy of debilitating back and hip injuries.
“I’ve missed quite a few years and quite a few important years ... I’ve more or less overcome that now and I’ve learned to manage it,” he said.
His coach, former Olympic 400m hurdler Matt Beckenham, believes it will be several years until Burbidge reaches his potential.
“How long’s a piece of string? He’s achieved one aim, he’s shown he’s got the ability to perform under pressure, which is really important, and he’s had a really good winter of training,” Beckenham said.
“But how that converts into the next step — well, that’s what we’ll find out in the next couple of years.
“I think he can run a big PB at the nationals ... and if he does that he can probably make a semi-final.
“He’s currently running around 48 seconds for 400m, hopefully he can get that under 47 at nationals and down to the 45s in a year or two.”