Stray way beyond the herculean throws of Tom Walsh from the rotational circle and you'll find there's a robust coach/athlete affinity the New Zealand Olympian has built with Dale Stevenson.
On the calculated scramble to the stupendous apex of the global shot put tree, Walsh and Stevenson have carved deliberate, hewn foot holes that enable them to scale the branches of trust and mutual respect that are hard-wired to yield personal bests on the way to claiming medal-winning performances.
That rapport — which to the uninitiated is perceived at the level of yelps and back-slapping bear hugs — often transcends other variable factors and is absolutely non-negotiable.
• Sky and TVNZ in surprise Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics deal
• Olympics: Concerns raised that eco-friendly Olympic beds won't withstand athletes' sex lives
• Tiger Woods' Olympic golf bid could get complicated
• New Zealand is set to have their biggest ever Olympic team in 2020
"I guess our relationship is a unique one in that we did start as competitors and rivals, to some extent," says Stevenson before he and Walsh arrive in Hastings on Friday to open the athletics season at the 21st edition of the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic.
"Tom is six years younger than I am so I retired in 2012," says the Olympian who bowed out of the international arena for Australia at the 2012 London Olympics.
Stevenson harboured a desire to give something back to the discipline at a time when Walsh was in the shadows of another Kiwi, Jacko Gill, who has grappled with his share of injury demons and a life-threatening illness. The 25-year-old Aucklander was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2017 but — after getting on the road to recovery — has emulated Walsh in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in June/July although he won't compete here on Saturday.
In 2014, Stevenson took up a professional role and six years on the coach/athlete combination is having a second crack at the Summer Olympics.
"We're trying to do the best we can for New Zealand," he says, revealing gold is certainly on Walsh's radar but there's a lot of work still to be done, starting with training sessions at the EIT Institute of Sport and Health indoor facilities before going through the motions at the adjacent HB Regional Sports Park all-weather track-and-field arena.
Not peaking yet is imperative for Walsh who has the World Indoor Athletics Championship in Nanjing, China, from March 13-15, along with the Diamond League trials.
"It's the next big thing for athletics and all the best guys in the world are there so it generates form and pretty high levels of energy at high-demand competitions," says Stevenson.
Christchurch builder Walsh has won three world titles — two indoors at Portland, Oregon, in 2016, and Birmingham, England, in 2018.
"We want to go back-to-back-to-back on those ones so even if the Olympics are almost six months away this is a start to a pretty short campaign to the world indoor championship so that's a carrot at the end of this season."
The importance of Potts Classic rises dramatically when compared to the world champs staged in October last year.
"We don't have the luxury of much time this time around but, hey, we knew this coming into it and Tom is ready to go on Saturday."
It's a nice position to not have the new qualifications process hanging over Walsh's head but other shot putters will want to get the ball rolling, as it were, here.
"We talk a lot about standards and setting them so that's the approach we take to competitions rather than expectations," says Stevenson.
It'll be Walsh's first chance to test that since the end of the season last year. No doubt they have incorporated a few new concepts which will come under the microscope here to see how they play out in the scheme of things.
"I'm going to keep things here pretty close to my chest but there are certainly new ideas we're toying around with that we have given ourselves in competitions to road test and Potts [Classic] will be the first one."
Stevenson says it's always a tricky situation every time the trainer wheels have to be taken off but Walsh has a pre-world recipe to time their run.
Walsh's work ethics is something they pride themselves on. Running the gauntlet of a domestic season is an integral part of that.
"Tom's a pretty competitive guy so that's why we do the sport, train, making scrap videos," he says. "That fire certainly burns in Tom so this weekend's going to be no different."
Only centimetres will be the difference in determining who will scramble on to the medal podium, never mind the colour of the bling.
Walsh, the then defending champion, had smashed the 32-year-old world championship mark with a 22.90m throw in Doha last October.
The Rio Olympics bronze medallist had registered five consecutive no-throws thereafter as American rival Joe Kovacs (22.91m) eclipsed him in the final round while Olympic champion Ryan Crouser pegged 22.90m to clinch silver on a countback. A lousy 1cm had separated the trio with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) reportedly dubbing it as "undoubtedly the best contest of all time".
So what will it take for Walsh to have the rub of the sod in passing the 23m mark in Tokyo, taking into account any co-relation between age and performance?
"That's the million-dollar question so if [anyone] has any ideas they can let me know," says a chuckling Stevenson. "There are really no secrets to what we're doing."
The fundamentals, he stresses, are simply based on hard work that is non-negotiable.
"Tom's a different athlete every year now," says Stevenson of the Timaru-born 27-year-old who lives in Canterbury. "He's not getting any younger."
In flicking the Rubik's Cube of age, there tends to be more attention to detail. It isn't a ritual of work for the sake of training.
"We've sharpened the resolution on that and everything has a focus and we're quite target now for the next six months," he says, adding they didn't waver on that in previous three months either.
"We're up against tough competition and that's how we want to do it which will be harder than just competing against ourselves."
Hastings athlete Nick Palmer is part of Stevenson's stable of two who are pushing the 20m mark now.
"Nick's managed to transition to Christchurch really well and is certainly looking back into competing," he says of the former Karamu High School pupil. "He's probably got out of the fish bowl in Hawke's Bay and starting to earn his stripes against some throwers now, which is always tricky period to navigate because you don't always get too many roll-over credits from your schoolboy days."
Stevenson says the 19-year-old is perhaps a better prospect for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France, but the new facility here will be their first visit since it officially opened late last year.
He lauds classic organiser Richard Potts and Sir Graeme Avery for providing a platform to a "beautiful destination and it's hospitality" for athletes whose roots are in smaller regions.
• 1pm: Hammer men | women.
• 2.30pm: Pole vault men.
• 3pm: Discus men | women.
• 3pm: Triple jump men.
• 4.30pm: Long jump women.
• 4.30pm: Pole vault women.
• 5.15pm: Shot put women.
• 6pm: Long jump men.
• 6.30pm: Shot put men.
• 4.40pm: 200m men elite final.
• 4.45pm: 200m men B seeded final.
• 4.50pm: 200m men C seeded final.
• 4.55pm: 200m women elite final.
• 5pm: 200m women B seeded final.
• 5.10pm: 100m 11-14yr girls/boys' heats.
• 5.35pm: 100m men heat 1.
• 5.40pm: 100m men heat 2.
• 5.45pm: 100m men heat 3.
• 5.50pm: 100m men heat 4.
• 5.55pm: 100m women heat 1.
• 6pm: 100m women heat 2.
• 6.05pm: 100m women heat 3.
• 6.10pm: 100m 11-14yr girls' hcp.
• 6.12pm: 100m 11-14yr boys' hcp.
• 6.15pm: 800m 11-14yr boys/girls' hcp.
• 6.20m: 3000m senior women NZ championship.
• 6.35pm: 400m men elite final.
• 6.40pm: 400m women B final.
• 6.45pm: 400m women elite final.
• 6.50pm: 100m men elite final.
• 6.55pm: 100m women elite final.
• 7pm: 3000m men NZ championship
• 7.15pm: 800m men C seeded final.
• 7.20pm: 800m men B seeded final.
• 7.25pm: 800m women B seeded final.
• 7.30pm: 800m men elite final.
• 7.35pm: 800m women elite final.
• 7.40pm: 4 x 100m relay mixed.
Note: Men's 100m (4 heats); 1st in each heat plus next fastest four through to the final.