The making of Kiwi shot put world champion Tom Walsh

Kiwi Tom Walsh had to wait for a protest to be shot down before celebrating his gold medal at the world championships in ...
MICHAEL STEELE/GETTY IMAGES

Kiwi Tom Walsh had to wait for a protest to be shot down before celebrating his gold medal at the world championships in London.

World champion shot putter Tom Walsh has a lot to thank his parents for. 

It was not just Peter and Karen Walsh's genes – or the shot put circle they installed at their home, which moulded the burly South Cantabrian into the world's best – it's the values they instilled in him.

That's what Paul Coughlan, Walsh's former manager, told Stuff a couple of days after the former Timaru Boys' High School pupil won gold at the world championships in London

New Zealand's Tom Walsh in action during the men's shot put final in London on Monday (NZT).
REUTERS

New Zealand's Tom Walsh in action during the men's shot put final in London on Monday (NZT).

"It's very clear where he gets his values and level-headedness from," Coughlan said. 

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"They're very down to earth people, very successful in their own right in business themselves, but there is not an ounce of pretension about them.

Tom Walsh on his way to winning his eighth national shot put title in Hamilton earlier this year.
JEREMY WARD/PHOTOSPORT

Tom Walsh on his way to winning his eighth national shot put title in Hamilton earlier this year.

"They're just very decent, down to earth people. And that's what I got from Tom as well. They've instilled those values in him and no matter how big you are and how famous you are, you put your pants on one leg at a time – the same as everyone else – and you can see that coming through."

Coughlan went on to say Walsh's parents deserved a "huge amount of credit" for their son's rise to the top on Monday (NZT), when he was the first Kiwi male to win a medal (of any colour) at the track and field world championships.

The 25-year-old world indoor champion added the outdoor title to his name after out-gunning American rivals, and favourites, defending champion Joe Kovacs and Olympic champion Ryan Crouser.

Tom Walsh and former coach and mentor Ian Baird in 2014.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Tom Walsh and former coach and mentor Ian Baird in 2014.

​Walsh survived protests from both Americans to snare the gold medal with a best throw of 22.03 metres, 37 centimetres clear of Kovacs. 

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It's the latest success story for Walsh, who last year won bronze at the Rio Olympics, and won the Diamond League title. 

"Not at all," Coughlan, who managed Walsh for four years and finished up after last year's Olympics, said when asked if he was surprised Walsh won the world title. 

 

"He always had very clear goals, and even when he was a long way away from that, he always knew he had a long-term goal in mind and he had the capability to get there.

"You look at every year he's competed over the last few years, he's improved every year, he's done something new, something different every year in terms of achievement and this year is another step up again. So roll on Tokyo [2020 Olympics]."

Walsh notched his personal-best with the 7.26-kilogram implement last year, when he unleashed a 22.21m bomb in Croatia. Back up to 2010, when he first started using the men's shot, and his best was 17.57m. 

Tom Walsh represented South Canterbury at cricket, rugby and athletics.
STU PIDDINGTON/STUFF

Tom Walsh represented South Canterbury at cricket, rugby and athletics.

It wasn't until 2013 before the eight-time national champion started regularly clearing 20m, while he went beyond 22m for the first time last year. 

Karen described her son as "pig-headed, like his father" when discussing his mental drive to achieve something he had wanted to do since giving up cricket and rugby, sports he also excelled at and represented South Canterbury in. 

"I'll apply it to all three of them [Karen, Peter and Tom] and say they're very driven," Coughlan said.

Tom Walsh works as a builder in Christchurch during the New Zealand summer.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Tom Walsh works as a builder in Christchurch during the New Zealand summer.

"It's a real single-minded focus to not lose sight of the ultimate goal . . . if you don't develop those qualities from a very early age, you won't develop them later."

Walsh's first coach and long-time mentor, Ian Baird, watched Walsh reign supreme in London, and also deserves credit for helping Walsh get where he is. 

As does current coach Dale Stevenson, a Christchurch-based Australian who spends countless hours ensuring Walsh is ready to fire when it counts most. 

Tom Walsh competed in the New Zealand Open pro-am in Arrowtown in March.
KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES

Tom Walsh competed in the New Zealand Open pro-am in Arrowtown in March.

But endless hours of training and good genes isn't always enough to get to the top. 

Walsh, a qualified Christchurch-based builder, spends his Kiwi summers on the end of a hammer, something Coughlan believes has also helped him succeed. 

"He likes to stay on and do his building work because it keeps him grounded," Coughlan said. "He wants to work as well as compete in his sport because it gives him some balance."

Coughlan, who still deals with Walsh as the International Track Meet and Big Shot director, was reminded earlier this year, when setting up for the Big Shot event in Christchurch, why he's a "genuinely good guy". 

"When we laid the concrete circle for the Big Shot event in Victoria Square, he was there scraping out the gravel and levelling it off and laying it. That would be like having a working-bee to put up posts at AMI Stadium and [All Blacks lock] Sam Whitelock being there putting the posts up," Coughlan said. 

"Like [Kiwi middle distance runner] Nick Willis, he is very focussed on making sure whatever he does, wherever he goes and however famous he gets, he always wants to be involved in those events."

 - Stuff

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