Walsh defends shot put gold after epic final with Gill

Brodyn Knuckey
Source: 1News

Tom Walsh has defended his Commonwealth Games crown after an epic battle with fellow Kiwi Jacko Gill on Saturday morning.

In front of a packed out Alexander Stadium against the backdrop of a picturesque setting sun, Walsh sent a firm message to the rest of the field with his opening throw in the final with a 21.98m effort - a throw that was bigger than the personal best of every other finalist.

Gill was quick to make it a Kiwi one-two in the final with his first throw of 20.48m making the New Zealand duo the only ones to pass the 20m mark in the first round.

Walsh stayed in the 21m range with his next two throws but was unable to improve on his initial mark while Gill reduce the deficit slightly with his next effort - a 20.88m throw.

In the third round Nigeria's Chukwuebuka Enekwechi joined the two Aotearoa representatives in the 20m club but his 20.33m throw wasn't enough to nudge either of them from their podium perches.

Tom Walsh celebrates in Birmingham.

With the third round over, the field of 12 was reduced to eight and Gill upped the pressure with a 21.20m throw to put some further distance between himself and the Nigerian while one of Timaru's finest again got close to breaking the 22 metre mark with a 21.84m heave.

Gill then pushed the marker again with his next two throws - his final effort of 21.90m surpassing his previous personal best but not enough to catch Walsh's first mark.

With the true grace of a champion though, Walsh asked for an accelerating clap from the Alexander crowd before he sealed the final with the last throw - a 22.26m effort.

The gold is Walsh's second after defending his title from 2018 and third Commonwealth Games medal overall having also won a silver in Glasgow eight years ago.

However, he told 1News his latest medal had a special footnote to it after his rough performance just over a month ago at the World Athletics Championships in the US where he finished fourth.

"It was just awesome to go out there and really own my competition and be in a completely different frame of mind than what I was at Worlds where I was all over the show," Walsh said.

"But I did some real good work the last two weeks to get into the right headspace and trust myself to do what I do well which sometimes is what I don't do."

Walsh said those two weeks included some "open, honest conversations" which helped him enter Saturday's final relaxed.

"Without those open, honest conversations you can't get good answers to the questions and if you're lying to yourself, then you're only doing yourself a disservice," he said.

"It's allowed me to go out there tonight and throw really well."

Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill share a moment after the final.

Walsh added he knew his first throw - the 21.98m effort - was enough to put him out of reach of most of the field but he knew Gill had something special in the wings.

"I knew I needed to go a bit further to put it out of reach for Jacko.

"Then obviously Jacko comes in with his last throw and has a PB which was awesome... it's going to make the domestic season interesting!"

Gill's silver is his first Commonwealth Games medal in his second appearance after he was forced to miss the Gold Coast Games due to a myocarditis [heart inflammation] diagnosis.