As crack shot putter Jacko Gill moved through age-group athletics he was always a 'rock star'.

Kids used to crowd around after school events to watch the Aucklander hurl the shot put further than anyone had done at his age.

He has wowed people with his training videos, which show his impressive strength, while he also moves nicely on his feet for a 118kg brute who throws around a heavy ball of metal with ease.

But making the move to the 7.26kg senior shot has proved tougher than Gill thought it would during the past six months.


"Oh, definitely. I expected it to be pretty easy," he said. "I did pretty well when I was young and I kind of pushed myself a bit too hard and that was when a few injuries came."

His development has been slightly stagnant in recent times but now he is injury-free and has revamped his coaching team, things should start to happen for him. "I've got it sorted but the distance hasn't come - but I'm sure it will soon."

Yesterday, at the national track and field championships in Wellington, nearly 3000 people flocked to Newtown Park to watch Gill's duel with Canterbury's Tom Walsh.

Shot put is hardly a blue ribbon event but this could be one of New Zealand sport's great rivalries during the next decade given the abilities of both competitors.

Gill is the freakishly talented 19-year-old, who is an elite athletic specimen, while Walsh is your true working-class man given the 22-year-old still clocks in daily as a building apprentice.

Both men garnered decent support in Wellington but it was Walsh who triumphed yesterday with a 20.79m put, while Gill mustered 19.93m, good for second place, despite clearing 20m in warm-ups. Tasman's Dale Pritchard was third with a put of 15.82m.

Gill's best effort was still significant - because he surpassed the 19.75m B qualifying standard for Glasgow's Commonwealth Games later this year and should join Walsh in the starter's circle in Scotland providing the paperwork checks out.

He said the rivalry with Walsh was a positive thing: "It's really good for us having each other there and it will push us along and we will have someone to get information off and see how he's doing with technique and kind of get each other through to the top level," Gill said.


Walsh offered a slightly different take: "There's no bad blood but we are not mates at the same point in time, if you kind of get that," the New Zealand champion said.

For Walsh it will be back to the building site tomorrow and he has no plans to quit his job and take up athletics full-time.

"I'm happy with what I'm doing. Things are going well, why change it?" He has a point considering he recently won a bronze medal at the world indoor championships in Poland and said having a day job helped provide a good balance.

"It just takes my mind off things and the boys talk a lot of s*** at work," he said with a laugh. "So it's not about athletics, it's about cars, it's about girls, it's about everything else, so it's good."

Both will compete again before Glasgow with Walsh eyeing an overseas meet in May, while Gill will likely stay in New Zealand.

In other notable results yesterday, shot put queen Valerie Adams won her 13th national title with a 20.46m effort, which is the world's best mark this year. Angie Smith won the women's 800m with Nikki Hamblin second. Brad Mathas claimed the men's 800m crown in 1m 53.71s with Benjamin Anderson close behind.

In the women's discus, Siositina Hakeai achieved the B qualifying standard for Glasgow of 58.50m for the second time with a winning throw of 58.77m as she comfortably claimed the national crown ahead of Te Rina Keenan (52.49m). Auckland's Sarah Cowley won the women's high jump as she cleared 1.84m but was unable to make the B standard for Glasgow of 1.88m.

Stuart Farquhar claimed his 14th national javelin title with a throw of 78.16m, while Manawatu-Wanganui's Ben Langton-Burnell was second with an effort of 74.69m.