Shot putter Walsh hot on Jacko Gill's heels

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013
tom walsh
OISIN DUKE/Fairfax NZ
ON TARGET: South Canterbury's Tom Walsh is the second New Zealander to eclipse the record Les Mills' set back in 1967, beating it by 2cm with a throw of 19.82m.

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Canterbury shot putter Tom Walsh knows if he is to have any chance of kicking Jacko Gill off his pedestal he must start winning the "numbers" game.

Earlier this month Walsh, who turns 21 on March 1, created some excitement at the International Track Meeting in Christchurch when he became the second New Zealander to eclipse the record Les Mills' set back in 1967, beating it by 2cm with a throw of 19.82m.

Now Walsh, an apprentice builder, is eager to see if his new personal best - a 49cm improvement - can be extended when he meets the celebrated Gill at the nationals in Auckland on March 23.

There can be no disputing Gill, 18, is the undisputed king of shot put in this country.

Last November he set a new national record when he fired the 7.26kg shot 20.38m and although he been bugged by injuries this season - being bitten by a dog in the face and suffering a badly sprained ankle - he is expected to be available for the nationals.

No-one is wishing Gill a speedy recovery more than Walsh.

"I know him quite well, he is a great guy," Walsh said.

"It is a rivalry, don't get me wrong, but he's always been that little bit in front of me. It definitely helps if you have got someone throwing near your distance or are in front of you. It really gets you up for it."

To have any chance of beating the world junior champion within the "next four or five years" Walsh knows patience will be his greatest ally.

"My numbers aren't nearly as good as Jacko's and things like that - especially in the gym where I have got a lot to improve on.

"Technique is a major thing but it is also about the speed and strength in the gym and that helps out a lot. For example, my PB on the bench press is only 175kg whereas Jacko's is around 216."

Walsh, who weighs 115kg and hopes to add another 5kg to his frame over the next few years, admitted his PB in Christchurch was a pleasant surprise.

"It probably exceeded my expectations because I hadn't freshened up at all. I was working and still into heavy weights, so I was very happy with it. Usually, when I have freshened up, I can add another half a metre to it but as you get closer to the peak that gets harder and harder."

His major goal is to qualify for the world championships, which will be staged in Moscow in August.

Surpassing the B-standard of 20.10m is the realistic target, which means he has to hope Gill either fails to surpass that mark or reaches the A-standard of 20.60m.

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Over the next couple of weeks Walsh will compete in grand prix circuit meets in Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney before returning him to continue work on building houses and splitting his training between Christchurch and his home town of Timaru.

Being based offshore is not a priority and he preferred to work rather than seek tertiary education scholarships overseas.

"No, I'm not really a book-type. I did have a wee think about it but it is not what I want to do. For me, at the moment, I don't see a need. Training camps overseas might be a possibility (in the future) but at the moment I am not quite there yet."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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