New Zealanders love an in-house Olympic sporting duel. Take John Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon chasing each other on tracks through the 1970s; triathletes Hamish Carter and Bevan Docherty battling through the hills of Athens in 2004; or past Olympic champion Rob Waddell challenging incumbent world champion Mahe Drysdale for the single sculls oars at Beijing.

Shot putters Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill are next.

Such contests offer an insight on humanity, stir an innate love of competition and raise the profile of sports fighting for publicity in rugby's shadow.

Until last year, Gill was alone as the country's next great athletics hope. The 19-year-old from the North Shore had rewritten every world age-group record, something he continued in August, trumping current world champion David Storl's junior mark by throwing 23.00m with the 6kg shot.


Gill now has company. Walsh, the 21-year-old builder from South Canterbury, posted the national (senior) record of 20.61m with his Zatopek Classic win in Melbourne last month.

It was no fluke. He'd thrown 20.45m to break Gill's 7.26kg shot mark by 7cm the previous Saturday.

Game on.

The pair are yet to compete against each other using the senior shot. One match-up should be at the national championships in Wellington from March 28-30. That's a compulsory event, barring medical or exceptional grounds, for Glasgow Commonwealth Games hopefuls to compete at the jurisdiction of Athletics New Zealand. Another prospect is the meet on February 22 in Christchurch on the third anniversary of the second major earthquake.

Efforts to contact Gill this week through his family were unsuccessful. A brief conversation with father Walter revealed he was expecting Jacko at training "shortly", but subsequent calls failed to track him down.

Gill's last contact with the outside world appears to have come from his Twitter account on November 26. A photo of his bloodied forearm - which could moonlight as a decent Christmas ham - was posted alongside the text: "Tried to test my vertical by jumping alongside a wall ... Jumped into the wall managing to scrape my arm on a screw."

He has also been active on Trade Me, selling punnets of chilli plants.

Fans would now welcome another of Gill's innovative YouTube fitness demonstrations to show he's ready to compete. The teenager endured a tough 2013 and, as the Herald on Sunday reported in September, coped with a long-standing ankle problem, suffered an injury to the face following a domestic dog attack and his father suffered a heart attack in February. Walsh and Gill have qualified for Glasgow. Walsh is also hopeful of attending the world indoor championships in Poland from March 7-9. His 20.61m effort ranked him the 22nd equal best thrower for 2013, while Gill's 20.38m throw ranked him 29th in the world two years ago when he was about to turn 17. There's scope for both to move into the top 20.


"This is only going to help shot put in New Zealand, especially when Val Adams has been the best woman in the world for years too," Walsh says. "If one person throws in excess of 20m, it's not that interesting - but if two from the same country do it, it builds a following. People can say 'I support him' or 'no, I reckon he's better'. Sides play off against each other."

Walsh worked with Adams in Switzerland last year and will look to follow a similar path this European summer. He's also working on getting invitations to Diamond League events.

"It's great for our sport seeing two amazing athletes competing against each other," Adams says. "I'll do whatever I can to help. They're different people too, which is a good thing. Hardly anyone I know in athletics is an ordinary Joe Bloggs.

"Tom's a builder from down South; Jacko trains in the middle of the night on the North Shore. It's fun for us as spectators looking in."

Walsh works part-time because he says he'd go "stir crazy just throwing the shot and lifting weights". Nails tend to stay put when his 120kg frame is in possession of a hammer but he has other uses: "The boys tend to call me when they're on a job where there's a lot of lifting."

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 those days because "the weight just falls off" in the building trade.

As a former provincial age-group cricketer who played with the likes of Tom Latham and Corey Anderson, he chose shot put for a simple reason.

"Cricket's a stats game but people don't always get picked on stats. There is room for hunches. In throwing, if you do it, you get rewarded."

Walsh spent his holiday attending the Ashes Boxing Day test in Melbourne, the day a world record crowd of 91,092 turned the MCG into a cauldron.

"For me, that is the biggest day in cricket on this side of the world. I also thought gee, this must have been an amazing venue for the 2006 Commonwealth Games."

Walsh should sample Glasgow's version later in the year.