Series04 Sep 2019

Advice to my younger self: Tom Walsh


Shot putter Tom Walsh of New Zealand (© Getty Images)

Tom Walsh, the reigning world champion in the shot put both indoors and outdoors, offers some sage wisdom to a time when the New Zealander was a much younger athlete.



Be patient. You are still in the very early days of your career and you have all the time in the world to develop. I know it isn’t easy. Jacko Gill is enjoying a lot of success and you are feeling a little jealous. He is winning world age-group titles and he is very much the athlete leading the way in your event in New Zealand. Yet you will come to realise, thanks to your parents and your coach, that success can only follow when you worry about yourself and not others. Focusing on yourself is a far healthier approach and once you do so, you will find your results will improve.

You will later learn to enjoy the ride. You will grow to understand that there will be ups and downs in the sport. And over time you will learn to trust those around you and that they are with you for the right reasons to develop your career.

Tom, you have been brought up well by good parents. They were quite hard on you from a young age but they instilled in you good discipline and commitment, which will serve you well in the future.

If you want to play a sport on a Thursday night and the season is six months long they make sure you commit to every session. They don’t want you to let either yourself down or your team-mates. This will stay with you throughout your sporting career.

You also a keen, all round sportsman. You play cricket, rugby and hockey as well as athletics at high school. I know you have a lot of fun playing all these sports. They are social but they are also a very good means of learning many new skills. So, Tom, continue what you are doing. Play as many sports for as long as you can and enjoy them. There’ll be a point when you have to choose one and for you it is going to be throwing a steel ball out of a circle!

Another pivotal moment in your career will come in 2010 at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Canada. There you will feel great in warm-up throwing 20 metres but in the qualification you will bomb out with 17.92m. You will mentally freeze not knowing whether to throw with your left or right hand or whether to start with the right or left foot at the back of the circle. It will not be an enjoyable experience but you will learn quickly that it is not the physical aspects that need addressing but the mental side. You will start working in future with a sports psychologist called John Quinn and this will act as a big boost for your career.

Steve Landells for the IAAF