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Sprinter Josh Ross chasing 3rd Gift title
13:08 AEST Sun Mar 31 2013

History-chasing Josh Ross headlines a quartet of former Stawell Gift winners still in contention for the $40,000 first prize at Central Park on Easter Monday.

With Jamaican superstar Asafa Powell's continued participation in the race in serious doubt after he experienced hamstring tightness before Saturday's heats, the race has been thrown wide open.

Ross is aiming to become the first man in 132 attempts to win three Gift titles, having previously tasted success in Stawell back in 2003 and 2005, the latter occasion off scratch.

This year the six-time Australian 100m champion has been moved out to the 1m mark due to the presence of Powell, the former 100m world record holder.

And Ross had plenty in reserve after cruising to victory in his heat on Saturday in 12.49 seconds, easing up 30 metres before the finish line.

"That's exactly what I did when I won from scratch in 2005, shutting it down," said Ross.

"I am really happy to be in the semi-final and I believe I have a good chance to do this.

"It's a massive advantage that I am one of the most experienced, if not the most experienced sprinter here.

"This thing is a whole mind game, you know guys can come out and run 11.7 in the heat and run 12.3 in the final.

"It comes down to experience and can you handle the pressure?

"It's a pressure game and I perform well under pressure - that's what I am known for."

Mitchell Williams-Swain, who tore his hamstring while crossing the line to win the Gift in 2011, was backed into $4 favouritism after clocking the fastest heat time of 12.08 off a 4.5m mark on Saturday.

"I'm confident," said the Gold Coast-based Williams-Swain.

"You have to be confident in your running if you want to come out and win the Stawell Gift.

"I've taken a couple of months off work to concentrate on my running so that should help."

The other former champions who won their heats were Aaron Stubbs (2009) and Sam Jamieson (2008).

Ross was rated a $17 chance with TABSportsbet, with Powell at $21.

The Jamaican was undergoing further physiotherapy work on Sunday, although a decision on whether he would test the hamstring in the semis was unlikely to be made before Monday morning.

The semis and final all take place on Easter Monday.