Above: Tom Walsh on the dais after securing the bronze medal in the Rio Olympics shot put, Photo by Damien Meyer/Getty Images.
Tom Walsh won the bronze medal in the Rio Olympics shot put to match his gold from the world indoor championships and silver at the Commonwealth Games.
Walsh opened with a put of 20.54m, and was in fourth after round two with 21.20m. Ryan Crouser stamped his authority on the event early in the competition with a 22.22m in round two and 22.26m in the third round. Joe Kovacs was in second with 21.78m. Walsh fouled the third attempt and went into the final three throws holding fourth. In the fifth round Walsh was at his best with a 21.36m to take him into third ahead of Franck Elemba of the Congo. Crouser produced an Olympic record of 22.52m in the fifth round for the gold medal with Kovacs taking the silver ahead of Walsh who was out to 21.25m in the final round.
“It’s awesome to get bronze, obviously not what I wanted but you’ve got to take it,” said Walsh.
“The last throw I wasn’t quite lining things up, but you know it is the Olympic Games there’s a lot of pressures around and it was a hell of a comp out there today with the two Americans throwing really well.
“I fouled a really good throw which could have put me maybe a spot up but that’s one of those things you’ve got to keep them in. I just tried a little bit too hard, I’ve got to let it flow and I was just pushing the river,” he added.
“It’s pretty good to be the first New Zealand male to win an Olympic field event medal, hopefully we start a wave and have one or two up there at the next Olympics, but it’s great to know that I’m the first and hopefully the first of many.”
Always a perfectionist Walsh felt he was ready for better.
“I thought I was in better nick than what I actually threw today, but it is the Olympics and there’s all these type of pressures and wasn’t quite firing out there like I normally do,” he said.
Crouser, the 2009 world youth champion, said that he soaked up the atmosphere of the night.
“It’s amazing, the moment I walked out that tunnel just to see a stadium like this, in my first real big international competition so I knew kind of anything was possible tonight, it was a really special night.
“I took the lead early but with guys like Tom Walsh and Joe Kovacs in the field anything’s possible with them they’re great unbelievable throwers, so I kept going after it and everything came together and a throw of a lifetime,” said Crouser.
“Tom’s a great guy I met him a few months ago for the first time at the Prefontaine and we actually threw against each other when we realised that we knew each other at 16 years old at world youth championships.”
In the earlier qualifying rounds Walsh threw 21.03m for second in group B behind Crouser’s 21.59m and New Zealand’s other competitor Jacko Gill was out to 20.80m and lead group A. In the final Gill finished ninth with 20.50m ahead of Australian Damien Birkinhead.
Gill was just thankful to be in Rio for the Olympics after suffering a stress fracture in his foot four weeks ago.
“I’m really happy to be here it’s been a big journey and to get top ten is something I’m really proud of and I’m really grateful to have gone through this whole thing when I thought I couldn’t have,” said Gill.
“About four weeks ago I had a Jones fracture on the outside of my foot and I was pretty much told I wasn’t able to compete here and to be here and represent my country is been such a big journey to get here and training has been just like so different I’ve been in the gym six hours and not throwing at all.
“I got PB’s in the gym and I performed pretty well to my standard it’s really good so I’m happy and I really excited to watch Tom get the bronze medal,” he added.
“The foot was pretty sore towards the end, and the three throws were pretty painful,” said Gill.
Nick Willis employed his trade mark finishing kick to easily qualify for Saturday’s final of the 1500m. Willis was in the first semi-final and needed to finish in the first five.
He sat in fourth place on the pole over the first three laps. Down the back straight for the last time he got boxed in as the field bunched for the final assault down the home straight. Into the final 100m Willis went wide and accelerated down the outside to finish third in 3:39.96. Asbel Kiprop, three times world champion and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist won in 3:39.73.
“I’m tired,” was Willis’ initial comment on how he felt coming off the track.
“I had a really good run most of the way but then 250m to go which is where I was wanting to make my move I did the opposite got in a box and was very lucky the last 50m to get through.
“But I am, I feel good, see you in the final,” said Willis before diving off to warm down.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent