Star shot putter Tom Walsh down to earth with a thud as day job looms
The heavy lifting isn't over for Tom Walsh, but the bronze medal-winning Olympians' short-term priority is striking balls rather than lugging and then heaving them.
If the weather permits, and that's a fairly big 'if', the 24-year-old could be out on the Christchurch Golf Club on Friday morning, better dressed for the occasion than his homecoming 24 hours earlier.
Walsh sported a t-shirt and shorts when disembarking from the final leg of a marathon trip home from Croatia, the end point of a remarkable season that produced an Olympic medal in Rio, a lucrative Diamond League title and a succession of PBs.
"As I was sitting in the plane I saw hail coming and I was 'Gee s..., I might go back to Europe'," he joked, after receiving a heart-warming welcome from his partner Dana plus parents Peter and Karen.
Walsh was definitely ready to return to his Christchurch base after a hectic four-month schedule although in some respects the recently-qualified builder might have preferred to strengthen an already solid foundation.
Although he fell considerably short of gold in Brazil, Walsh had the consolation of winning two Diamond League meets in Paris and Zurich - successes that enabled him to overtake Rio silver medallist Joe Kovacs and claim the $US50,000 [$NZ69,000] title.
He did so with personal bests of 22.00-metres and 22.20m and then, for good measure, he threw 22.21m at the IAAF World Challenge in Zagreb on Tuesday [NZ time], a benchmark he expects to better in 2017.
Asked if 22.50m was the next ground to break, Walsh looked taken aback: "It's even further mate.
"We're not bothering with 22.5. Every time I throw a PB I think' Oh yeah, I've got a bit more here.' It's a pretty good feeling."
He was also confident of closing the gap on Kovacs and fellow American Ryan Crouser, who topped the podium at the Estadio Olympico last month with a 22.52m heave, a Games record and the best distance of 2016.
"I think that'll definitely be coming in the next few years for sure. It's a work in progress."
Walsh felt he was a shot at gold in Rio given his preparation so a best of 21.38m was below expectations, not that it proved the ultimate downer.
"I've achieved almost everything I wanted to achieve. We all know the one I didn't get but I got pretty close.
"I knew I was in that type of shape [to throw 22m at Rio] and I proved that. To do it it three times in 10 days after being a little bit sleep deprived and a little bit mentally drained makes it all the more impressive for me."
Walsh opened his season with the world indoor gold in Poland in March, he won nine of the 15 meets entered and never finished out of the medals but on September 19, like the 7.6kg shot he carries round the world, he will come back to earth with a thud.
"I'm sure they'll be 'What's the point of throwing 22m afterwards [Rio],'" he said, predicting the welcome of his building crew at Mike Greer Homes.
He didn't expect to get off lightly on the job front either: "I always get lobbed onto sites where there's standing frame or moving steel."
Walsh expected to start constructing the blueprint for next year with coach Dale Stevenson in a week or so but ruled out the Lovelock Classic in his home town of Timaru as a starting point on January 7.
However, the star former pupil will drop into Timaru Boys' High School to thank the roll for their support.
"I found out after the Games they made 'Go Tom' on The Rectory. I'll go down and have a chat with the boys and show them the medal."