Tom Walsh, New Zealand's latest sporting world champion, brings an engaging honesty to the intense business of elite competition.

The 25-year-old from Timaru earned his place in the national hall of fame by claiming the shot put gold medal at the athletics world championships in London.

He is just the third New Zealander to be crowned a world athletic champion, after the discus specialist Beatrice Faumuina and the great Dame Valerie Adams, who won four consecutive shot put titles. In London, Walsh's 22.03m winning throw was 27cm shy of rival Ryan Crouser's heave. But the American, Olympic gold medallist in Rio last year, was judged to have fouled.

Walsh had to endure protests from Crouser and fellow American Joe Kovacs who claimed they had made legal throws. The final protest was dismissed just moments before the New Zealander's big moment on the victory podium.


The athlete admitted to nerves in the medal room as he waited for an appeal jury to confirm his winning throw and found the process, after the exhilaration of his triumph, "a bit of a downer".

In the end Walsh prevailed, beating reigning world champion Kovacs into second place and leaving title favourite Crouser without a medal.

With the protests done and dusted, the Americans praised the efforts of their downunder opponent. Crouser, previously unbeaten this year, agreed that Walsh "earned it. He threw really well and was consistently at the top of the field."

Kovacs, the Rio silver medallist, remarked: "I wanted the gold but my hat's off to Tom Walsh with some great throwing."

Walsh said he was proud of his achievement, which goes with the world indoor gold medal he won in Portland last year and the bronze he picked up in Rio. Once an apprentice carpenter, Walsh is now a very part-time builder and full-time athlete. He spends his life training, travelling and competing.

His win was worth $82,000 but his new status as world champion is sure to open some commercial doors. His coach Dale Stevenson expects more opportunities will come Walsh's way.

Before the London contest, Walsh declared he felt confident going up against his big-name rivals. He didn't even allow a groin strain, picked up in training a couple of days before competition, to throw him off his stride, saying he did not want to use the injury as an excuse.

His parents say their powerful son has loads of self-belief. Peter, Walsh's father, national junior men's shot put winner in 1964-65, said his son "knows he can win and doesn't doubt himself".

Walsh's triumph moves him into contention for a top New Zealand sporting prize to go with his London medal. The Halberg Awards honour our highest achievers in sport, and among the men Walsh and America's Cup skipper Peter Burling would so far be the year's leading contenders.

After his heroics at the Olympic Stadium, Walsh planned a night out with family and friends. He wanted to find a pub and enjoy "a few pints and a burger or steak". The 120kg star athlete was feeling "pretty toey for a feed". He deserved a treat.