By Grant Chapman

As his rivals punch out big numbers in the gym, Kiwi shot exponent Tom Walsh is trying to navigate a path less travelled towards next month's world championships and beyond.

His most recent outing - a second-placed season best of 21.97m at last week's Lausanne Diamond League meeting - suggests he's well on target for a podium finish at the event where he finished fourth two years ago.

"It was a great series," reflects Walsh, from his training base in Athens, Georgia. "The only thing missing was the big one ... I thought I had a touch more in there."

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In a discipline where the strongest man often wins, the defending Diamond League champion is desperately seeking a way to break the dominance of American Ryan Crouser, without locking himself in the weightroom.

Walsh, 25, has just completed a heavy two-week lifting block designed to keep his strength up for the next few weeks of his European campaign, particular the championships in London.

But while his performances in the gym would make most of us look like nine-stone weaklings, he seems almost embarrassed to compare them with those of his rivals.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"I think too many people get caught up with what you can bench and what you can squat," he insists. "I'm not that type of guy.

"Some of the numbers some guys put out there, they're pretty daunting. You just think 'shit, that guy's strong'.

"The question is how much does the extra strength add? I can get a lot stronger, there's no doubt about that, but it's a fine line between turning into a grunt thrower, which I'm not and which would be detrimental to me, or staying as a rhythm and timing thrower, which I am."

That's the balancing act for Walsh - strength v technique. What he may currently lack in raw power, he more than makes up for in the efficiency it is applied.

For the record, his bench press during this latest block maxed out at two reps of 205kg, His power cleans hovered around 150-160kg.

""That's good for me, but not as good as some of the guys I throw against. I was touching on the numbers that I need to get benefit out of that block."

Walsh's key performance indicators aren't engraved on lumps of iron - they're found out on the throwing sector.

"When I'm throwing far in training, I'll throw far in a competition," he says. "Depending on what I'm doing in the gym, that usually takes some fuel out of the tank and during that heavy block, I don't throw as far.

"But I still threw further than during the same heavy block last year. For me, that means I'm improving.

"If I can keep those distances up during a heavy block, when I freshen up, I'll have more top side."

That's why Walsh is happy to retire to his own corner of the world between competitions, away from his opponents and their own agendas.

He's fallen into that trap in the past, when he was still struggling to emerge from the shadow of fellow Kiwi Jacko Gill.

"Everyone was saying he's going to be good and he's going to be our guy, and I was so worried about how his training was going, I forgot to concentrate on myself.

"That was a worthwhile lesson back then."

Walsh and Gill have taken very different career paths. Gill, now 22, was a teenage phenomenon, setting world records for every age group along the way and posting stupendous training videos online that quickly went viral.

Walsh has been more of a slow burn, switching from cricket to athletics late and taking a more methodical approach to his success.

"Two guys in New Zealand and we're completely different," observes Walsh. "Jacko trained like an absolute demon, like a professional athlete, for years.

"It worked for him and still is working for him to this day. His numbers are crazy compared to mine, but right now, I'm throwing further and more consistently.

"Who's to say what way is right? I just know that, for me, it works when I don't get too worried about the numbers, and focus on how my throwing is going and how far in training."

After losing to Crouser, 24, at Lausanne, Walsh wondered aloud how he could find a way to beat his great friend and rival.

The Olympic champion had already beaten him twice over the New Zealand summer and again at the Diamond League opener in Oregon.

"I look at it this way, Ryan's training maturity is probably a year in front of me," says Walsh. "We're the same age, but I think he's done a bit more training than I have, because I didn't start lifting until I was 18.

"Good things take time. Give me another year or so, and we'll be right at each other all the time.

"We're not too far off at the moment. He's just doing enough to beat me at every comp, which is frustrating, but at the end of the day, you can't get too caught up in that stuff.
"You've got to play your own game."

Meanwhile, on this side of the world, Walsh has just embarked on another milestone project - his own home.

"Most people realise I'm still a builder, even though the guys on the workplace would disagree," he chuckles.

"So I've been talking to my employer [Mike Greer Homes] about the right time to get a house. I'm pretty excited that kicked off this week and I'll be living there for six months of the year, while I'm in New Zealand.

"We've gone through a process of how big do we want it, how many rooms, what colour ... stuff like that. Even though I am a builder, I keep forgetting how much goes into it."

The venture, located in the Christchurch suburb of Prestons Park, is very much a joint effort with partner Dana Mulcahy.

"She picked all the colours and the furniture," says Walsh. "I just have to keep an eye on the price."