Call it a tight knit group where respect runs deep.

When Tom Walsh won his shot put gold medal at the world championships in London, his coach, Dale Stevenson, also received a medal.

It is a new initiative in athletics to pay tribute to those who get the athletes on to the podium.

But then Stevenson, a 29-year-old who represented Australia at the London Olympics in the shot put, did something which might seem a remarkably magnanimous gesture, although he doesn't quite see it that way.


Among the people in London supporting Timaru builder Walsh were his parents and long-time mentor Ian Baird.

Baird oversaw Walsh's early development and remains a sounding board. He also helped Stevenson progress as a coach.

So Stevenson and Walsh decided to give Stevenson's medal to Baird as a mark of his influence on getting Walsh to the top.

"It was a bit of a surprise to Ian," said Stevenson. "He's reluctant to be at the centre of attention but it was the right thing to do, Tom and I agreed. I'm sure it's in its rightful place.

"It's only a small token but I'd have felt uncomfortable having it any other way. It gave me more joy giving Ian that medal, than having it."

In Stevenson's view, Baird represents a significant part of athletics. Baird is a volunteer coach, like hundreds around the country, who give up their time for no financial reward, helping out because they enjoy it.

"I had them during my career. Now I'm a paid coach whose job it is to help Tom do what he does.

"But really, the best coaches out there are coaching kids who no one's ever heard of. To say I've had any major influence compared to someone like Ian over Tom's career trajectory, I just don't feel comfortable with that," Stevenson said.


Stevenson uses the All Blacks to make his point.

"Someone taught the All Blacks how to catch and pass. [All Blacks coach] Steve Hansen deserves a degree of credit but we're all a product of everything that's gone before us."

Walsh is back training after some time out reflecting on his world championships gold.

His season will start at the New Zealand Commonwealth Games trial in Hastings on January 27, then he's off to the world indoor championships in Birmingham at the start of March, leading up to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

Stevenson will be in his corner, and so will Baird, the understated man who helped put Walsh, Olympic bronze medallist a year ago and now world champion, on his path to glory.