New Zealand?has a new sporting hero ?in Tom Walsh
Tom Walsh’s achievement in winning the shot put at the world athletics championships earlier this week should not be underestimated.
The burly builder by trade went into a final against a powerful field — it was the first time in history that seven competitors have exceeded 21 metres in the same event.
He was up against a hot favourite in Olympic champion American Ryan Crouser, who had won seven events in a row and was unbeaten in 2017.
On top of that Walsh suffered a groin injury days before the event and had to compete through the pain. He and his support team have now found that setback may be more serious than thought, and he may miss the final of the Diamond series next month.
As if that was not enough, he had to endure three protests from other competitors — one of which was not finally resolved until minutes before the medal ceremony in the stadium that hosted the 2012 London Olympics.
It is a shame the political turmoil of the past few days has dominated the headlines and taken some of the attention away from Walsh’s success, which in the opinion of many sports observers is right up there with the America’s Cup win and above the Crusaders winning the Super Rugby title.
The 25 year old, originally from Timaru but now living in Christchurch, is the first New Zealand male to win a medal at the world championships (first held in 1983); our other gold medal winners have been Beatrice Faumuina and Valerie Adams.
The plain-spoken and likeable Walsh is the kind of hero New Zealanders like most — modest, unassuming and able to come through when things are tough.
His working life as a builder (he is presently working on his own home) also allows him to identify readily with the average Kiwi.
In many ways he is similar to Peter Burling, who led Team New Zealand to their America’s Cup win. Richie McCaw has moved off the competitive stage, but in this pair New Zealand has two ideal sporting icons to replace him.