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Star runners setting themselves for riches on offer at annual Leonora Golden Gift

Neale HarveyKalgoorlie Miner
Winner Zoe Buckman during the 2022 Leonora Golden Gift Elite Mile women’s race.
Camera IconWinner Zoe Buckman during the 2022 Leonora Golden Gift Elite Mile women’s race. Credit: Amber Lilley/Kalgoorlie Miner

Two-time Olympian Zoe Buckman chases a second women’s Elite Mile title in three years at this year’s $65,000 Leonora Golden Gift program.

Buckman represented Australia at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 35-year-old won 2022 Elite Mile in a time of 4min.47.25 seconds, but she last year had to settle for the runner-up cheque, four seconds behind Madeleine Murray.

However, race organiser Ross Johnson on Wednesday said that Buckman would arrive in the northern Goldfields in grand form.

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“I think she’s in better form now, compared to when she actually won it,” Johnson said.

“To have someone of her calibre coming back here is pretty good — being an Olympic year and all the attention from the athletes that’s being placed on those qualifiers.

“But she put this (weekend) in her schedule early, simply because she loves the race so much.

“We’re really lucky to get her.”

The men’s Elite Mile field is headed by Canberra’s Riley McGown, who is the national 800m champion, and Ben Thomas.

“Ben’s run a 3.37 1500m, so he would be the favourite at the moment,” Johnson said.

“Outside of them, we have various WA champions coming — ranging from 400m to 5000m, so we’ve got the lot.

“We also have some very good sprinters coming across from the east — no doubt because there’s some pretty good prizemoney available for the winners.

“For WA runners especially, it (the Leonora Golden Open) is a staple and very much a goal to be invited, if you’ve got the times.

“We’re confident that anyone who comes will appreciate the racing because the reality is that the top-eight get a pretty good payday.

“I use that term sparingly because they’re actually big paydays.”

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