Walsh wows world with bronze
South Canterbury Amateur Athletic Club's Tom Walsh is blown away by his own efforts after career best of shot put of 21.26 metres landed him a surprise bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Poland.
Walsh emerged a genuine world-class talent after going into the event ranked 16th, and his third place effort put also set an Oceania indoor record.
The 22-year-old is now a medal favourite for the Commonwealth Games alongside Kiwi Jacko Gill, who remains on the injured list.
Fifth overall with one throw left in the final, Walsh saved his best for last to be beaten only by American champion Ryan Whiting and German Olympic silver medallist and two-times world champion David Storl.
Canadian Dylan Armstrong was the only established international absentee from yesterday's world final, and his personal best is 5 centimetres shorter than Walsh's best effort.
Walsh said it was a surreal feeling that he struggled to describe.
"I can't believe I was standing on that podium at the medal ceremony seeing the New Zealand flag raised. I came here for the experience and a top eight spot in my first major competition, it really is amazing."
Walsh said interest in him had gone through the roof since winning bronze, which he was struggling to comprehend.
"The first people I spoke to back home were my parents, Peter and Karen. My mum said she was so overcome with emotion she cried, while my dad was at a loss for words to describe what had just happened. It has been an amazing adventure."
Walsh said 10 days in Switzerland with Valerie Adams and her coach, Jean-Pierre Egger, was a real privilege.
"This period of time really helped put the final gloss on my preparations.
"Of course, the vast majority of the hard work was put in with my coach Ian Baird (in Timaru) and strength and conditioning coach Andrew McLennan in the many months, if not years, before the championships."
Walsh said he knew if everything clicked he could achieve 21m.
"I also took into the championships a positive attitude and I knew I had everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Walsh said he wasn't sure when his final throw landed whether it was good enough.
"Thankfully, it was and once the distance flashed up that I'd thrown 21.26m - the best throw of my life in the biggest competition of my life - I couldn't quite believe it."
Walsh said he celebrated with a couple of beers and finally took the medal off just before he went to bed, "for fear I might strangle myself".
"I managed to get three or four hours sleep because I was on a huge buzz, not from the alcohol, but winning bronze."
The Christchurch builder has no chance to rest on his laurels.
He flies back to Australia to train for the Melbourne World Challenge before the New Zealand Track and Field Champs in Wellington, where suddenly he is favourite ahead of his much anticipated match-up with Gill.
Walsh may find life changes somewhat now he is genuine 2016 Rio Olympic contender, and the tool belt and hammer may be put away for some time.
- The Timaru Herald