Athletics: Walsh wins bronze at Indoor Champs

Tom Walsh from Canterbury has just won bronze in the men's shotput at the World Indoor Athletics Championships. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Tom Walsh from Canterbury has just won bronze in the men's shotput at the World Indoor Athletics Championships. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Kiwi shot putter Tom Walsh has stunned the athletics world to win a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Poland.

The 22-year-old defied all predictions to improve on his New Zealand indoor record three times during the final, finishing with a huge 21.26m in the sixth and final round to move into third place.

Walsh, also the national outdoor record holder, pushed the reigning two-time Olympic champion Tomas Majewski of Poland out of the medals in front of his home crowd in the Ergo Stadium in the Polish city of Sopot.

His throw of 21.26 beats the Oceania indoor record of 20.83 held by Australian Scott Martin, and equals Martin's record for the best ever by an Oceania athlete.

More significantly, it also propels Walsh into shot put's elite, with a throw that would have ranked him seventh overall in the world for 2013. The bronze was New Zealand's first by a male athlete at a world indoor championships and earned Walsh US$10,000 prize money.

Walsh had earlier surprised many to make the final with a 20.40, which placed him sixth, after going into the competition ranked 17th. Starting the final with two fouls, Walsh threw 20.12 in the third round, before improving to 20.46 in the fourth round, then 20.88 and 21.26.

Walsh commented after the competition that he knew he was in good shape after a week training with world champion Valerie Adams and coach Jean Pierre Egger in Switzerland, but he was somewhat surprised with the distance and placing achieved.

Remarkably, the world champs were not only Walsh's first senior international competition, but also his first ever indoor competition.

At the same time on the track, Zane Robertson led for most of his 3000m heat before finishing in sixth place with a time of 7:44.16, beating Nick Willis' national record and qualifying for Monday morning's final.

Robertson's effort completed an outstanding day for the Kiwis in Sopot, with Willis having earlier looked very comfortable in qualifying for the final of the 1500m. Valerie Adams competes in the shot put qualifying this evening, with the final scheduled for early on Sunday morning (NZT).

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