Kiwi shot put gun Tom Walsh confident he can rebuff Jacko Gill's plan to dethrone him
It's not that Tom Walsh doesn't take Jacko Gill seriously, he's just supremely confident in himself.
"He might have to wait a while yet," was the Canterbury shot put ace's response, when asked about Gill's plan to dethrone him at the national track and field championships in Hamilton in March.
Gill told Stuff last week he had big plans for the year, including competing more than usual and knocking over rival Walsh.
But Walsh, who was on Wednesday named as a Halberg Award finalist in the sportsman of the year category, said he was confident he would be able to rebuff anything Gill throws at him.
"It's just that I feel very confident if we're in a competition together that I will be able to find what it takes," Walsh said.
The 24-year-old said he and Gill have a "healthy" rivalry, and the fact the Aucklander was pushing him was good news for the pair, and for the sport in New Zealand.
"Because a few years ago Jacko was better than me and now I'm on top of him at the moment," Walsh, who is based in Christchurch but hails from Timaru, said.
"It's good to try and keep it that way, but I also know he's right there behind me and I've got to keep going well and try not to lose my New Zealand title."
The pair will get their first crack at each other this year on February 19, at the Big Shot event in Christchurch, which is also attracting Olympic gold medallist Ryan Crouser and fellow US gun Ryan Whiting.
With Walsh sidelined by injury, Gill won the event last year but Walsh is determined to win the title on home soil this time round.
They will again go head-to-head the following weekend in Auckland, at the Auckland Track Challenge.
Walsh, last year's indoor world champion and Diamond League winner, said training was going well and he felt primed to dish out some big throws come the first two competitions of the year.
"Usually, before you start throwing really big, there is a phase of a two-week block where you've got all this extra power and energy that you haven't had for three-four months and you miss a lot of shot puts," Walsh said.
"So that's kind of the phase I'm in at the moment, so that is looking pretty good for the Big Shot and the Auckland meet."
While it's unfair - but not impossible - to expect Walsh or Crouser to produce anything too big so early in the season, it's fair to say they are eyeing up the 23m mark.
Crouser, who won gold in Rio with a 22.52m throw, said earlier this week it's only a matter of time before he, Walsh or Olympic silver medallist Joe Kovacs break the 23m barrier and threaten American Randy Barnes' 26-year-old world record of 23.12m.
Walsh agrees, but also threw 30-year-old Whiting's name into the hat as someone who is capable of reaching the mark.
"I'm exactly the same as Ryan. That world record has been around for far too long and it needs to be wiped clean and started over again," Walsh, whose personal-best is 22.21m, said.
"I think it will definitely be moved in the next few years."
The group will get plenty of chances to push each other towards the 23m mark this year, which will feature the usual Diamond League series and culminate in the world championships in London in August.
Walsh, a qualified part-time builder in Christchurch, had his first day back on the tools this year on Wednesday, but conceded his days on the building site could be numbered.
"In time, we're going to have to re-evaluate the building," he said. "Obviously because of all the pressures that are coming on in terms of sponsorship requirements, media requirements and all kinds of things.
"At the moment, it works, I think it's best for me. But we'll have to wait and see in years to come."
Walsh is due to find out if he will receive more funding from Athletics New Zealand by the end of the month.