A few weeks back 21-year-old New Zealander Tom Walsh punched his ticket to Poland with a useful 20.61m (67′ 7½”), well clear of the world indoor qualifying mark of 20.30m (66′ 7¼”). That was just another board on the wall of legacy Walsh is building on the banks of the Avon River.
Zylstra: What got you throwing?
Walsh: My father, Peter Walsh, got me into the sport. He was New Zealand shot put champion back in 1960s and bought me my 1st pair of throwing shoes, New Balance.
Zylstra: What other sports have you been part of?
Walsh: Being from New Zealand I was, and still am, into cricket and rugby. During my playing days I trained in all the New Zealand set-ups (high performance) for those sports and was on course to do one of those; I did athletics on the side.
Zylstra: What moved atheltics to the forefront?
Walsh: In 2009 I went to the IAAF World Youth Championships in Italy but wasn’t really training for athletics because I had been offered a cricket scholarship to play in England for four months; so I was doing that full-time. I threw and finished 6th and thought to myself, “Bloody hell, If I can get 6th in the world with no training; imagine what I can do with some.” So now I only throw shot because the other sports would take-up too much time. But Aussie shot putter Dale Stevenson just got me back into golf so I may be playing a bit of that in my free time.
Zylstra: How do you pay the bills?
Walsh: I’m very lucky. I get a lot of support from a number of New Zealand businesses and help from NZ Athletics. I still work as a builder; which is great. It’s a way to keep my feet on the ground as the boys bring me back down to earth whenever I come back from being away [laughter]. I get good support from my boss Mike Greer Homes, the largest residential builders in the area, and a number of others in the building trade. Without them I couldn’t do what I’m doing as it’s not cheap to get anywhere from New Zealand.
Zylstra: How does construction work fit in with your throwing?
Walsh: Um… I just think it’s good to have something else in your life to do apart from training. A career to fall back on if something happens, injury or something. I work three nine-hour days a week. I think this type work has given me abit of natural strength. Weight training does not always translate into throwing.
Zylstra: What are your favorite jobs on the construction site?
Walsh: There’s alot of different jobs when in New Zealand mate. Our crew builds the entire home. If I’d have to pick one, I guess I like standing wall frames or trusses.
Zylstra: Do you take any special precautions to avoid injuries at work?
Walsh: Yea, I see a physio and massage therapist once a week to keep me injury free.
Zylstra: Have you built any throwing stuff?
Walsh: I’ve made a few stop-boards and I’m going to make a indoor circle at some point.
Zylstra: Where are you based?
Walsh: I train in Christchurch, Timaru and Melbourne (Australia) but live and build in Christchurch. I have a good support team around me–which I think is very important.
Zylstra: What do you keep in your duffle bag?
Walsh: Nothing really that different; iPod, phone, tape, two pairs of throwing shoes, wrist strap, comp singlet, warm clothes and some towels to dry the ball or the circle.
Zylstra: What ball do you throw?
Walsh: I like a 129mm Nishi. I had one but somehow I lost it in Spain.
Zylstra: What does your competitive schedule look like?
Walsh: I have the International Track Meet in Christchurch 22nd of February. The World Indoor Championships 7-9 March, Melbourne Track Classic on the 23rd of March and then New Zealand Nationals from 28-30 March. After that I’m not sure what I’m doing during my build-up to the Commonwealth Games. I will be based in Switzerland with Val [Adams] again; but apart from that I’m not sure yet mate. I would say I’ll be in Europe from the from the start of June ’til end of August.
Zylstra: What is your technique based on?
Walsh: I base my technique on speed, not strength–that’s the big difference from most. I think most US guys are strength based.
Zylstra: Who do you train with?
Walsh: Ian Beard is my throwing coach, he has been coaching me for about since I was 15-years old, Andrew Maclennan works on my strength and conditioning schedule.
Zylstra: Any reason not to study and compete in the US?
Walsh: Na, not really. I’m a book-guy, not the career I’m looking for. I also feel that in the college system the competition blocks are too long. That makes it very hard to peak and stay in good shape and throw well when comp’ time comes. In the end I felt like I had everything I need right here in New Zealand–good coaches, good support and good competition.
Zylstra: Any ideas to share?
Walsh: I think you don’t need to go into the weight room until you’re at least eighteen. From what I’ve seen I think that’s where alot of injurys start; when you get into the heavy weights too early. Second, as far as throwing; if you try to throw 22m ever day when you train you will never fix anything. Third, don’t be too worried about what everyone else is lifting or throwing–but also learn off everyone else. Pay attention to the sport. A few times a year I go train with Damien [Birkenhead] and his coach Scott Martin. It’s great to have a change of scenery and have some different eyes on you. you never know they might see something that makes the differences Finally, you need a good support team around you; with a physio [Vanessa Trent], sports psychologist [John Quinn], conditioning coach [Andrew Maclennan] and event coach [Ian Beard] that are all working toward the same goals as you. I think having a training partner [51m discus thrower Hayden Hall] is very important to keep you level-headed and talk shit with.
Zylstra: Makes sense all around, you’re brilliant.
Walsh: Ha, dunno about that, cheers.
You can talk and ask questions to Tom Walsh and his coaches in our SOCIAL.THROWHOLICS discussion board.