Mentor and work building strong foundations

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014
Iain Baird and Tom Walsh

TRAINER AND FRIEND: Mentor Iain Baird meets with New Zealand shot put champion Tom Walsh.

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When describing New Zealand's new shot put star, rest assured, Timaru Tom is still the correct nickname.

Tom Walsh is the sporting flavour of the moment after his national championship victory over arch-rival Jacko Gill last weekend and his surprise bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships last month.

However, if it starts to go to his head, long-time mentor and trainer Ian Baird quickly bursts the 22-year-old's bubble.

''I'm still a Timaru boy at heart, so I guess that nickname is still right,'' Walsh said.

''Sure, I work in Christchurch as a builder now but I still train down here quite a bit with Ian and it's still home.''

Baird brings him back down to earth fast, Walsh said.

''The first thing [Baird] said to me after the World Indoors was 'Well, you've got a bit more work to do yet, Tommy'. I think I started with him when I was 15 and he probably doesn't get the credit he deserves for the effort that he puts in to get kids doing this sort of thing.

''He's not into pushing kids or forcing them to do anything, he believes if you want it enough you'll make it happen and that really helps.''

Walsh said he had been told to give up building to focus purely on the sport but as of right now he doesn't listen.

''I've been told I should but I just don't listen.''

World shot put champion and Walsh's training partner Valerie Adams supported his move.

''Val thinks that it's great that I do something else and she worked until she became an Olympic medallist. It's good for me at the minute because it gives my head something else to focus on.''

At 1.8m (six foot two) and 120kg, Walsh is still considered small for a shot putter. He was outweighed by 15kg during his bronze-medal effort in Poland.

The success has lifted his public profile, sponsorship appeal and media commitments. Sports brand giant Nike is the latest to come on board after initially declining his advances back in April last year.

Walsh will spend the next two months in New Zealand before heading overseas to continue his preparation for the Commonwealth Games.

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- The Timaru Herald


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