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Controversy over teen's win in Stawell Gift

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) A 15-year-old girl who won Australia's oldest and richest short-distance running race Monday has been fined $2,000 from her $40,000 winning purse by officials who say she improved more in two weeks than most athletes achieve in a lifetime.

Talia Martin won the Stawell Gift, a 120 meter handicap race contested annually at Easter since 1878 on a grass track in the small town of Stawell in Victoria state. In a staggered start, runners are handicapped up to 10 meters according to their recent form.

The handicap system is designed to reward runners who ''rise to the occasion,'' generally by performing below their best in the leadup to secure a favorable handicap.

But race officials or stewards ruled Martin's handicap improvement was in the ''extreme range.''