Tom Walsh has surged to the top of the shot put world with victory at the IAAF World Championships in London.
The Timaru athlete was always in control of the competition from his first attempt of 21.38m and although pushed back to second momentarily, regained the lead with a 21.64 throw in the second round. He followed with throws of 21.75, 21.70 and 21.63.
By the time his final attempt came up he was already confirmed as winner and with any pressure gone, he unleashed a massive 22.03m final attempt to confirm his gold medal.
the expected big throws from the American favourites did not eventuate. Defending world champion Joe Kovacs had a best of 21.66m for silver and although it looked like a final attempt of over 22.00m might get ahead of Walsh, the officials adjudged that Kovacs had touched the top of the stop-board at the front of the circle, causing a foul to be recorded. Replays confirmed the officials had called it right.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser, unbeaten since September last year, had a rare off day recording a best of just 21.20 and with two fouls, finishing in sixth place, well off the pace. Ironically the last to beat Crouser was Tom Walsh.
Bronze went to Stipe Zunic from Croatia with a best of 21.46m.
Walsh’s recent major championships have resulted in a fourth at the last world championships in Beijing 2015, a win at the 2016 World Indoor Championships and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics – behind Crouser and Kovacs.
Although the 25 year old part time builder won the overall Diamond League title last season, the World Championship title is the most significant win of his career.
Significantly, the medal is the first of any colour by a Kiwi male athlete at an IAAF World Championships. It is the sixth gold won by a New Zealander following Beatrice Faumuina’s discus gold in 1997 and four shot put golds for Dame Valerie Adams from 2007 to 2013.
Walsh and his coach Dale Stevenson have formed a formidable partnership over recent years culminating in this victory. One of the keys to Walsh’s success is consistency, and that was a hallmark in London with three of his efforts good enough to win the competition and the final five throws all 21.63 or better.
Jacko Gill, the other Kiwi in the men’s shot put final, finished in ninth place, the same place that he achieved at the Rio Olympics. He went very close to the top eight, which would have got him another three attempts, tying on 20.82m with Ryan Whiting, but Whiting’s second best was further than Gill’s and the American progressed.
Eliza McCartney did not have a happy competition in the women’s pole vault, finishing in ninth place. An early clearance at 4.45m and a second time clearance at 4.55 looked good, but three failures at 4.65, the height at which the bronze medal was won, ended her competition.
Ekaterini Stefanidi from Greece won the gold medal, clearing 4.91m and American Sandi Morris cleared 4.75 for silver, replicating the first two positions from Rio. Venezuela’s Robeilys Peinado won bronze at 4.65.