Walsh and Gill all set to square off in shot put

DRAWCARD: Canterbury shot put supremo Tom Walsh is expected to be the star attraction at next month's International Track Meet in Christchurch.
DRAWCARD: Canterbury shot put supremo Tom Walsh is expected to be the star attraction at next month's International Track Meet in Christchurch.

Shot put sensations Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill are set to duel it out at the International Track Meet, in Christchurch, next month.

Organisers of the annual event have introduced a new throws quadrathlon this year to celebrate New Zealand's recent and historic success in those disciplines.

The quadrathlon will start with the hammer throw, along with qualifying rounds for the shot put and discus on February 21 at New Brighton's Rawhiti Domain, before attention shifts to the international meet the following day at Christ's College's Upper field.

The finals of the shot put and discus will be held at the international meet, along with the last event of the quadrathlon, the 50m sprint.

Event promoter Paul Coughlan said this year's international meet would be a poignant occasion considering it was being held on February 22, which will mark the third anniversary of the 2011 earthquake.

Last year's quadrathlon consisted of the 100m sprint, long jump, shot put and 800m, but Coughlan said they had decided to concentrate more on the throws component this year.

"We wanted to get Tom Walsh more involved. He's a rising star locally at the moment and on the New Zealand scene.

"We've always had a strategy of building events around New Zealand stars and trying to showcase their talents as much as possible."

Walsh has been in phenomenal recent form, breaking Gill's New Zealand record twice in Australia last month. He produced a 20.61m effort at the prestigious Zatopek Classic in Melbourne, which shattered his previous record of 20.45m, achieved a week earlier.

Coughlan was unable to confirm any names for the meet yet, but said they were in talks with many of New Zealand's top athletes and was confident Canterbury's Walsh and close rival Gill would headline the field.

"We'd like to see them both here. Tom is sending a reasonably clear message to Jacko, he's out to have a crack. The ball is in Jacko's court now. It's a great opportunity for Jacko to come and take on Tom on his home turf."

One of the other major highlights of the International Track Meet will be the New Zealand 3000m championships, which will be incorporated into the Brian Taylor Memorial women's 3000m and the men's event.

With the New Zealand title on the line, Coughlan believed all the top middle-distance runners in New Zealand would be keen to head to Christchurch.

"We're also looking to add a couple of internationals to the men's and women's fields as well to spice things up at the front end."

There will also be plenty of anticipation in the 300m dash events, where Black Sticks hockey player Anita Punt made a name for herself last year, winning the women's race, as well as the 100m.

The International Track Meet was first held at QEII Park in 2009 and driven by 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis, who was eager to compete in a top-level event in his own backyard.

Tickets are available from City Council Recreation and Leisure Centres, as well as the Shoe Clinic in Riccarton Mall and Smith Sport Shoes.

Fairfax Media