Rising shot put star Tom Walsh has eclipsed Jacko Gill's national record and now wants to square off against the Devonport Dynamo.

The 22-year-old Walsh, Timaru-raised and Christchurch-domiciled, has a long-term plan to be the best shot putter in the world. He still works as a builder so the Herald chatted to him during a lunch break.

Those performances in Australia suggest you are on track ...

I wanted anything over the world indoor qualifying mark of 20.30m so 20.61 blew it out of the water. It changed things slightly - I don't have the pressure on to meet qualifying marks and it has increased the expectations of how far I can throw a wee bit. All the training over the past three or four years is starting to pay off. People think it is a sudden improvement but I like to think it's been waiting to happen.


Shot put throwers of old were huge blokes but Jacko relies heavily on speed - how about you?

Some guys have strength-based techniques - usually the Americans, who are very strong. Then you have me and Jacko in a group more based on speed. But we look completely different the way we do it.

When did you last face off in competition?

Using the same weight ... probably at the world juniors Jacko won in 2010. It would be great for the sport if we competed against each other a lot more. But he only competes a few times a year which makes it hard - that's just the way it works for him. Most of us throw up to 20 times a year. I hope he comes down for the international meeting on February 22, but otherwise we should meet at the nationals in March.

Finding a top sports person with a regular job is rare ...

I'm not a top sports person yet. I work three days a week, 27 hours, and train the rest of the time. As soon as I get enough money to live off my sport, it might change. But it's going good at the moment and keeps a good balance. I'm not thinking about shot all the time - it's the last thing the other blokes want to talk about. I work for Mike Greer Homes, the biggest residential firm in Christchurch. I'm very lucky to have him letting me do what I do and he also sponsors me.

What is your sporting pedigree?

My father [Peter] won a New Zealand [junior] shot put title in the 1960s. He also played prop for South Canterbury and was in the team which won the Ranfurly Shield in the 1970s. My mother injured her back badly in a high-jump accident ... they were keen on sport and encouraged us to play as many as possible. My brother Bill plays cricket for Grafton and is one of the highest runs scorer in Auckland at the moment.


We hear you were a crack junior cricketer who could bowl quickly ...

I was an all-rounder in age group for Canterbury and won three national titles. I played with Tom Latham, Corey Anderson, against Jimmy Neesham and Adam Milne. He was not as quick back then ... around the 135km/h mark but it still kept a young fella on his toes. I might have been around the 125km/h mark and tried to hit the ball a wee way although it didn't always work.

Childhood heroes?

Chris Cairns back then. I liked Jerry Collins because he was hard nosed. I also looked up to Val Adams when she came through.

Is there anything you would change in your sport?

We need to take it more to the people. Overseas, they do competitions in the street. I'm trying to get the ball rolling with that but it is hard to get help.

Who would be your three favourite dinner guests?

Billy Connolly, Shane Warne, Beyonce.

What's the best advice you've received?

My coach in Timaru, Ian Baird, says things like "don't push the river, it will flow by itself" meaning even though I'm young and want to be at the top, it takes time. He also says there are many roads to Rome - Jacko might do it one way and I might do it another. Who is to say which is right?


I regard building as a hobby - I really enjoy it. I also do a bit of work for the old man on the farm.

Career highlight?

Throwing the New Zealand record of 20.61 in Melbourne.


There are two. Falling 1cm short of world championships qualification in Europe last year - you wouldn't believe how much stress I put myself under. Another was a high in a way. When Jacko won the world junior title, I bombed out massively, throwing 17.50m when I was throwing 20m just 10 minutes earlier. I thought at the time I can't let a young buck from Auckland have an easy route to the top. It was a good effort from him, but it spurred me on. I also learned about taking care of the mental side because that is what buggered me up - I can get too uptight.

How do you fix that?

Trying to chill out ... various forms of meditation, listening to my breathing or just sitting there, listening to a bit of paper going by, or someone talking, or the wind. Sports psychologist John Quinn is a great guy who has helped me be the athlete I am today. I need to take my mind somewhere else completely.

Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?

Doing what I'm doing, maybe even still working part time in Christchurch to keep the mental side right. There's no reason why I can't be competing in 15 years' time.