Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Athletics: Walsh learning on the job from the best

Valerie Adams. Photo / Getty Images
Valerie Adams. Photo / Getty Images

Shot putter Tom Walsh has accepted a special invitation ahead of the world indoor championships, his first major international meet.

Walsh turned 22 yesterday, spending his birthday in the Swiss Alps training with Olympic champion Val Adams and her coach Jean-Pierre Egger.

He will compete on Saturday morning at the world indoors in Sopot, Poland. Adams, Nick Willis (1500m), Lucy van Dalen (3000m) and Zane Robertson (3000m) are the other New Zealanders competing.

Adams has been impressed by Walsh's attitude, which saw him set a New Zealand record of 20.61m at December's Zatopek Classic in Melbourne while maintaining a job as a builder in Christchurch.

She invited Walsh to train with her last European summer and proposed a similar deal if he qualified for the world indoors as part of his build-up to July's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Walsh has the next month off lifting planks and hammering nails, courtesy of a flexible employment arrangement.

He has spent last week training, eating and sleeping in the Magglingen training centre, Adams' former accommodation until she got an apartment downtown a year ago.

"It's not often you get to train with an Olympic champion," Walsh says. "I love the way she goes about it. She's laugh-laugh-laugh but as soon as she's throwing, boom, sheis poker-faced and there to do a job. It's helping me assess my own approach.

"I'm getting three square meals a day [at Magglingen]. They feed you well so I'm not losing any weight, but I have to store a bit away at breakfast because there's a big gap to lunch. You can't swing a cat in your room, but all you need is a place to sleep."

At home, Walsh works about three days a week, training once on work days and twice on others. He spends up to half-an-hour eating at morning tea and lunch on work days because "the weight just falls off" in the building trade.

Walsh is aiming for a top-eight finish in Poland which could procure further Diamond League invitations before Glasgow. At the last world indoor championships in 2012 at Istanbul, the eighth-placed athlete in qualifying threw 20.04m, so Walsh could meet expectations. He reached 19.89m last week in Christchurch.

"If I throw over 20m, I've got a decent shot," Walsh said.

He's set to stay with the building trade for now.

"At the end of the day, I have to feed myself and I don't earn nearly enough off athletics because I'm yet to reach the right level. It's good to have something to fall back on. The boys on the job are really good to me. They give me tons of stick and bring me down to earth. They don't want to hear how training's going. They want to talk about cars and girls which gives me an outlet from the monotony of training."

Walsh and rival Jacko Gill are yet to compete against each other using the senior shot. One match-up should be at the national championships in Wellington during March 28-30. That's a compulsory event, barring medical or exceptional grounds, for Commonwealth Games hopefuls to compete at the jurisdiction of Athletics New Zealand.

- Herald on Sunday

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