Tomas Walsh, KIWI gold medalist, photo by PhotoRun.net
You got to love Tomas Walsh. Tomas has come up through the ranks, and, as a Junior, he was not even the best in New Zealand. I have watched Tomas throw as a senior athlete for a couple of years, and like his approach to the throw and his athleticism. I had the luck of watching him win his silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. (I was the only American there. I did create a bit of a stir tellling Scottish writers that the US was going to petition to get into the Commonwealth Games! But, that is for another day, another story).
So, we have adopted Tomas Walsh at RunBlogRun. He does not have to change citizenship, or anything like that. We are into that global village thing and we do not want to upset any New Zealanders.
Here is our story on our new friend, written by old friend, Elliott Denman.
TOMAS WALSH STORY
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
PORTLAND – Tomas Walsh is a no-nonsense guy.
Doesn’t bother carrying an “h” in his given name, excess baggage.
Doesn’t see the need to be a full-time athlete, finds plenty of time to handle a “real job,” works as a builder.
Doesn’t believe in fooling around, gets straight to the point, and with gusto, Friday night at the first full day of action at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships, for instance.
No male athlete from New Zealand had ever won a gold in the 15 previous editions of the Indoor Worlds. Guys from Namibia, Djibouti, Costa Rica, Bermuda, etc., etc., had on assorted occasions won Indoor Worlds golds.
But no New Zealand guy.
Until last night.
Delivering bomb after bomb, the builder from Timauro on the NZ South Island (yes, the hometown of famed New Zealand Berlin 1936 Olympic 1500-meter champion Jack Lovelock), simply demolished a quality field of behemoths.
No such thing as indoor track in New Zealand? (No need for it, really, climatically speaking.)
No problem, throwing off wood or throwing off concrete.
The missile is still 16 pounds. It’s you and that cannonball.
The man from Timaoro was on a mission and he was awesome and amazing.
And they’re the descriptives he put to his own usewhen it was won and done.
“The experience out there was awesome,” said Walsh.
“The fans were amazing and they got right behind the shot put. It drives really good throwing, Not only from me but the other guys, too.
“It was amazing. It’s a great facility you’ve got here. Indoors, the fans are only like 10 meters away. It ‘s (indoor competition) always fun, it was amazing out there.”
After warming up with a 20.38 (66-10 Â½) toss in round one, trailing only Andrei Gag of Romania and Filip Mihaljevic of Croatia, Walsh got one out to 21.60 (70-10 Â½), a lifetime best, in round two and was never threatened.
His five succeeding throws – 21.40 (70-2 Â½), 21.64 (71-0), 21.49 (70-6 Â¼) and, finally, a world-leading and national-record 21.78 (71-5 Â½) – easily bested the mightiest efforts of his frustrated pursuers.
Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom, and the track-savvy crowd loved it.
Even on a night Americans Trayvon Bromell (the sprinter) and Nia Ali (the hurdler) were speeding to victories down the 60-meter straightaway.
Walsh’s gold medal came along with a $40,000 paycheck and, most importantly, gave him a very big head-start in the build-up to August’s Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games.
Gag wound up with the silver at 20.89 (68-6 Â½) and Mihaljevic, a University of Virginia collegian,claimed the bronze at 20.87 (68-5 Â¾).
It was a rough day for Team USA, which had won the men’s shot put titles at the last six editions of the Indoor Worlds, in the Portland ring.
Ryan Whiting had won the last two Indoor World titles, Sopot, Poland (2014) and Istanbul (2012), Christian Cantwell had won it in 2010 (Doha), 2008 (Valencia) and Budapest (2004), with Reese Hoffa the 2006 titlist (at Moscow.)
But with reigning champion Whiting and 2015 World Outdoor king Joe Kovacs sitting it out, Team USA was outflanked in this one. Buffalo product Jonathan Jones was the top American, fifth at 20.31 (66-7 Â¾), with Kurt Roberts, winner of the USATF indoor crown here a week ago,
clearly off his game and out of it after two fouls and a sub-part 17.94 (58-10 Â¼) to rank 19th of 19.
A couple of years ago, Jackson “Jacko” Gill was the New Zealander the world was hearing about as The Next Great Thing in male shot putting. Back in 2010, aged just 15 years and 213 days.
He became the youngest-ever winner at the World Youth Championships.
But Walsh has come on even stronger in recent years – placing fourth at both the 2014 Indoor Worlds and 2015 Outdoor Worlds in Beijing – and now it’s Gill playing catch-up in the duel for their nation’s own supremacy.
Gill wound up ninth at Portland at 19.93 (65-4 Â¾).
“Today was Tom’s day,” conceded friendly rival Gill.
“But my day will come, too. I’m learning. I’m young.”
There’s one more New Zealand shot putter set to seize the Portland spotlight.
She, of course, is the remarkable Valerie Adams, the fiercest force in the women’s branch of the event for most of the past decade – as two-time Olympic champion, four-time World Outdoor champion and three-time World Indoor champion.
Adams competes here Saturday night planning to complete the male-female shot put double, a rare feat achieved by very few nations in any event at this level of global competition.
Can a small South Pacific nation double up on its success in the shot put ring?
Don’t you dare bet against it happening.