Tom Walsh has fired a warning shot at fellow Kiwi Jack Gill and his overseas competitors at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Stinging from his fourth-placed finish at the athletics world championships in Oregon last month, the South Canterbury shot putter didn’t mince his words as he eyes a second Commonwealth Games gold medal.
“If I don’t have a good day and he [Gill] has a big day, he can beat me. But if I have a good day, I’m not touchable, and that’s what I’m working towards, ”Walsh said.
His tough talk follows him being beaten by American trio Ryan Crouser, Joe Kovacs and Josh Awotunde in Oregon, where the former world champion was expected to at least grab bronze.
However, the 30-year-old’s best throw of 22.08m wasn’t enough, denying him a third straight world championship medal.
Now, Walsh wants redemption.
“Look, I didn’t go as well as I wanted to at the world champs, so I have had a bit of a rocket up my ass to prove to myself, and prove to everyone else, that I’ve still got what it takes to throw a long way and be one of the guys. “
With the American guns out of the equation, Walsh is the overwhelming favorite to snare gold, although the Christchurch-based athlete conceded they kept him on his toes.
But, having carried the New Zealand flag with squash ace Joelle King at the opening ceremony at Alexander Stadium last week, Walsh isn’t short of motivation.
“It adds to it in a nice way, it’s a nice privilege to have the flag and you kind of feel like you should perform well with it, it’s not necessarily a burden.”
Walsh and Gill, two of 17 in New Zealand’s athletics contingent, will have to wait their turn as athletics – the jewel in the crown of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games in the eyes of many – fires up in Birmingham.
Among others up before them is high jumper Hamish Kerr, another Kiwi medal contender who wasn’t pleased with his performance at the world championships.
Having won a surprise bronze medal at the world indoor championships in Belgrade in March, Kerr’s best of 2.25m in Oregon was short of the 2.30m needed to gain automatic qualification in the final, and 6cm below his personal-best.
However, Kerr is a good shot to add to his 2022 medal tally when the men’s high jump final is contested on Thursday morning (NZT).
Reigning women’s hammer champion Julia Ratcliffe, one of three Kiwis – Lauren Bruce and Nicole Bradley are the others – is another must-watch when the hammer medals are decided on Sunday morning.
Despite newly minted New Zealand 100m record holder Eddie Osei-Nketia not being in Birmingham, it will still pay to keep an eye on the track.
After all, Zoe Hobbs, fresh from breaking her own Oceania record and qualifying for the women’s 100m semifinals at the world champs, looks poised to feature in the final – one which isn’t set to be stacked with the Jamaican trio that gobbled up all medals in Oregon.
Sam Tanner (1500m) is another who ought to believe Birmingham could just be his stage to shine.
Lauren Bruce (women’s hammer), Julia Ratcliffe (women’s hammer), Nicole Bradley (women’s hammer), Olivia McTaggart (women’s pole vault), Imogen Ayris (women’s pole vault), Tori Peeters (women’s javelin), Zoe Hobs (women’s 100m) , Portia Bing (women’s 400m hurdles), Keeley O’Hagan (women’s high jump), Jacko Gill (men’s shot put), Tom Walsh (men’s shot put), Hamish Kerr (men’s high jump), Connor Bell (men’s discus), Quentin Rew (men’s 10,000m race walk), George Beamish (men’s 5000m), Sam Tanner (men’s 1500m).