Above Tom Walsh in winning form at the World Indoor Championships in Portland. Photo by Getty Images.
New Zealand shot putter Tom Walsh came to the World Indoor Championships in Portland keen to improve on his third place breakthrough at the 2014 World Indoor Champs in Sopot, Poland. He also knew that if he threw around 21.50m he could be among the medals, and maybe the gold.
Little was he to know that a throw of 21.78 would win the championships and that the record breaking throw would come from his own hand. The 24 year old part time builder broke his New Zealand and Oceania records (twice) and the indoor records for both New Zealand and Oceania (five times) in the process. His series was 20.38, 21.60, 21.40, 21.64, 21.49, 21.78.
Walsh also makes history, becoming the first New Zealand male to win a World Indoor athletics title, adding to Valerie Adams three indoor titles to make a total of four titles for New Zealand, all in shot put. Adams could add to that figure in Sunday’s women’s final.
The event signalled the future of the sport with all of the top five athletes yet to reach 25 years.
Finishing second behind Walsh was Romanian Andrei Gag with 20.89 and Filip Mihaljevic (Croatia) won bronze with 20.87. Nineteen year old Pole Konrad Bukowieki finished fourth with 20.53.
Such was his demolition of the field, Walsh’s winning margin was a massive 0.89m, the biggest ever in the event and even his fifth longest throw of the competition would have won by over half a metre.
The dominant nature of Walsh’s win comes as a good omen with the Rio Olympic Games Olympics in less than five months.
Although the three athletes who beat Walsh at the Beijing world championships last year by-passed this year’s indoor champs, Walsh’s consistency and continual improvement indicate that there will be bigger throws in store for the Canterbury athlete.
Jacko Gill started slowly in the contest but improved to post a best of 19.93 on his third attempt, falling just 0.08 short of making the top eight to get more throws. Finishing ninth in the field of 19 in his first indoor competition, just one place shy of his Beijing result, was enough to give the 21 year old Aucklander and former two times World Junior champion a level of confidence in his quest for success in Rio.
Walsh and Gill return to New Zealand to continue their preparations for the Rio Olympics before heading to the USA and Europe respectively with their future competitions expected to include some IAAF Diamond League meets.