World champ Tom Walsh confirms groin tear; but will compete in Diamond League finale
Kiwi shot put world champion Tom Walsh will compete for the $136,000 in prize-money up for grabs at the Diamond League finale in Brussels, despite an MRI revealing he won the global crown in London with a groin tear.
Walsh revealed from London that he had received "not great news but not terrible news either" on the groin injury he picked up the day before the qualifying competition at the IAAF World Championships at the Olympic stadium.
The 25-year-old Christchurch-based Timaru athlete made history when he became the first Kiwi male athlete to make the podium at the world championships in claiming a stunning gold medal in a seismic upset on Monday.
Despite picking up the injury on his last day of training before the qualifying competition on Saturday night (NZ time), the burly part-time builder went out and threw a seasons best 22.14 metres to top the 12 athletes making it through to Monday's (NZT) final.
Then on a cool evening in London where the event's big boppas failed to fire, the hobbled Kiwi, through gritted teeth, came out and made five of the top six throws in the competition to walk away with the gold with a best throw of 22.03m.
Olympic champion and hot favourite Ryan Crouser, who had seven of the year's 10 best throws all over 22.20m, finished a disappointing sixth with 21.20m. His closest challenger in 2017, American compatriot Joe Kovacs, was also well below his best in claiming the silver medal with a best toss of 21.66m.
It was only after his shock victory, where Walsh had to survive three separate no-throw protests (from Kovacs and Crouser) in the aftermath, stretching out to just minutes before the medal ceremony the following day, that the champion Kiwi's camp revealed how limited he had been competing with the groin problem.
Walsh spoke to Stuff just minutes after meeting the doctor to discover the extent of his injury in London.
"I've got a 7cm tear in my groin, and that pretty much means some time off from competing to rehab and repair. I've got some training to do in the next wee while to test out if it's any good or not, and we'll go from there."
But Walsh, who last year followed his Rio bronze medal with a series of career-best efforts in European competition, said he will still complete the Diamond League season, and put himself in the frame for the US$100,000 (NZ$136,000) in prize-money that will be dished out in the men's shot put – including US$50,000 (NZ$68,000) for the winner.
"I'm meant to be doing five comps, but I will now not be able to do all five. My first competition may be touch and go for the Birmingham Diamond League on August 20 but I will definitely be able to compete in Zagreb (August 29) and the Diamond League final in Brussels (September 1)."
Walsh, who has already picked up a US$60,000 (NZ$82,000) IAAF bonus for winning the world title, admitted the prize-money available at this time of the year was crucial for an athlete competing on the global circuit.
"It is good [money] but there is a long time between drinks, so to speak," he said. "And it is a costly business I'm in. I'm lucky that I get supported by the government pretty well and by Athletics NZ as well.
"It does make things slightly easier, but it's also good to make a bit more money if I can as well."
More importantly, for an athlete with Walsh's competitive drive, is the chance to go out and achieve the sort of results he was able to manage in London.
"I feel I'm definitely in better nick than what I've actually thrown. There's two parts to it. I really feel like I'm capable of throwing further and this is where we make some money at the end of the year."
Walsh said he is also hopeful that his success in London, and attention it has garnered, will open up some valuable sponsorship and commercial opportunities, both globally and in New Zealand.
But he remains a realist on that front.
"I know where shot put sits in the world scheme of things, and it is not up there with middle-distance running and sprinting. That's just the way it is.
"I would like to think there could be some opportunities in New Zealand. But then it comes back to how much time I've got up my sleeve to do the sponsorship stuff because I'm still a builder and I'm only in New Zealand probably 6-7 months a year."