Odds add spice to Walsh-Gill shot put rivalry

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Tom Walsh
DEAN KOZANIC/ Fairfax NZ
SHOT BRO: Kiwi shot put thrower Tom Walsh finished third at the IAAF's Glasgow competition.

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There was good news and bad news for Commonwealth Games-bound shot putter Tom Walsh yesterday.

The Timaru strongman's manager called to say he'd been installed a $1.25 favourite by the TAB for Saturday's eagerly awaited duel with fellow Games aspirant Jacko Gill at Newtown Park in Wellington. But the news came with a stern reminder that neither he, nor his co-competitors at the national championships, are allowed to wager a cent under strict IAAF rules on gambling.

Walsh has a strong recent formline, while Gill, the mystery man of New Zealand track and field, has no formline at all. This is the former world junior champion's first competition of the season and he's at $3.50 to topple Walsh.

"I've got no clue how Jacko is throwing so I can't really comment in terms of that," Walsh said. "I'm throwing pretty well and feeling pretty confident, and I suppose I've got the bigger PB and national record.

"It's probably fair odds but there will be a fair few people putting money on Jacko as well, so it's not a bad bet either way."

Like most in the athletics fraternity Walsh is excited about the duel - remarkably, their first since December 2011 - which will headline the three-day championships. Walsh qualified for Glasgow with his national record of 21.26m at the world indoor championships, which he followed up with 21.16m in Melbourne last weekend.

Gill's personal best with the senior 7.26kg shot is 20.38m, the distance he beat Walsh with at their previous meeting nearly 2 years ago.

While Walsh is affable and forthcoming with the media, Gill shies away from the spotlight and has already told Athletics NZ he's unavailable for interviews.

Athletics NZ high-performance director Scott Goodman spoke to Gill's mother, Nerida, and coach Kirsten Hellier in recent days to get a line on his form.

Gill needs to throw the Commonwealth Games B standard, 19.75m, just once to be considered for selection and Goodman expects him to go close. Whether he can beat Walsh is another matter.

"They think that Tom is out of reach at the moment but once you get there on the day we'll see what happens. Their main focus is to try and make sure he's qualified for the Commonwealth Games," Goodman said.

Gill's father, Walter, created a stir last week in a radio interview when he said his son was carrying a groin injury. It prompted Gill jnr to tweet that everything was fine and he was full steam ahead for Wellington. It appears there was some truth to the injury report, but it was only seen as minor.

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"He had a bit of soreness but Kirsten indicated to me that he'll compete and the main goal is to get over the qualifying mark. They're pretty confident he'll get there," Goodman said.

The only form guide on Gill is the YouTube video he posted earlier in the month which shows his high-intensity training regime, including 250kg squats, one-armed pushups, leaping with weights on his shoulders, pummelling his trainer in a sparring session and, to top it off, devouring a whole chilli without flinching.

- Wellington

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