World indoor and outdoor shot put champion Tom Walsh is currently the number one exponent of his craft. Here the affable Kiwi, who on 25 March extended the Oceania Area record to 22.67m, identifies why he enjoys heaving metal balls for a living.
“I probably first started throwing in school competitions at the age of ten although it was not until after I left high school did I join a club. A big factor into why I am throwing today is because of my original coach, Ian Baird, who gave me a lot of energy and motivation. He always told me why I could do things rather than why I couldn’t do things.
“It was Ian who passed on my passion for throwing and it is because of him I’m still chasing that feeling of the perfect throw.
“I had a number of key moments in my career which acted as a huge motivation for the future. Throwing 16 metres with a 5kg shot for the first time was pretty cool, because at that time I did not know of anyone who had ever achieved that. Another key moment was bombing out to Jacko Gill (the New Zealander and two-time World U20 shot champion) in a competition earlier in my career. That was a huge motivation for me and even today Jacko is still a massive motivation. Another big moment was missing out on qualification for the 2013 IAAF World Championship in Moscow by just 1cm.
“I’m very fortunate today to have earned a living out of shot put. One of the main reasons I enjoy it is the competitive side of the sport. I hate losing and it doesn’t matter if I am in the final round, as I was at the Diamond League final in Brussels last year when I was down in sixth, I am still convinced I can win. I never want to lose to anyone.
“A second reason why I do is I like to prove people wrong. I was told by one coach when I was 18 I was never going to throw far because I wasn’t strong or big enough. I always want to prove people wrong. A lot of time people put up barriers because we think we can’t, but that gives ourselves an easy option out.
“Finally, the other main reason I throw the shot is it has allowed me a great lifestyle. I love travelling the world and catching up with the guys, who I have formed some pretty cool relationships with over time. Throwing shot put also gives me a certain freedom in that I keep my own hours and I’m responsible for whatever I put in I get out of it – and I love that. Also, as an athlete living in New Zealand I get to enjoy two summers a year (the Northern and Southern Hemisphere) and that’s not such a bad life!”
Steve Landells for the IAAF