Series29 Feb 2016

First impressions – Tom Walsh


New Zealand's Tom Walsh after taking the bronze medal in the shot at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Sopot 2014 (© Getty Images)

New Zealand shot put ace Tom Walsh emerged as a world-class athlete at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Sopot 2014 when he grabbed a surprise bronze medal.

Walsh, who will be looking to do even better at this year’s World Indoor Championships in Portland next month, offers some insight into the firsts in his life, both inside and outside athletics.

First sport

My mother wouldn’t let me play rugby until I was aged eight or nine so my first sport was soccer. I was more of a ‘kick-the-ankles-and-get-the-ball' type of player.

I also played cricket at the same time. I was a very good cricketer. I was a middle-order batsman and a first change medium fast bowler and I earned a scholarship to play cricket in England for four or five months.

First competition

I can’t really remember my earliest athletics competition, but I do recall returning again to the sport after taking a break and competing at the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Championships in Auckland aged about 15.

I remember finishing ninth there, so just outside of the top eight who enjoyed three further throws. One of the guys from my school finished fourth, so he was pretty happy but one thing I do remember is how big some of the athletes were. I felt the same way when I competed at the 2009 World Youth Championships in Bressanone. I thought, "How can these guys stand 6ft 4in tall, weigh 140kg and be younger than 18?"

First coach

It was my father, Peter. He used to throw the shot at school and he won a few New Zealand titles when he was younger. Like any good old father and son relationship, I didn’t listen to anything he said and he used to get frustrated. In all seriousness, he gave me a great start for my first couple of years as a shot putter.

First overseas athletics competition

It was before the 2009 World Youth Championships, when I was in England, and I competed at the Hampshire Championships in Southampton. I remember I didn’t win the discus, but I won the shot put.

First media interview

It was for my local paper, the Timaru Herald. At the time it was a big deal and pretty cool to see your name in the paper.

It is funny, the older I got I couldn’t go through one interview without someone mentioning Jacko Gill (Walsh’s Kiwi shot put rival and two-time world junior champion). In fact, the first time I got through an interview without his name being mentioned was about 18 months ago.

First toy

I remember playing as a kid with Matchbox cars. In fact, my first trip to the hospital came after I decided to push the wheel of a matchbox car up my nose! I don’t know why I did it. I said to my nanny, “I have something up my nose,” but she couldn’t get it out. We went to the hospital and the doctors had to prise it out. I was probably aged four or five at the time.

First pet

It was a sheepdog, which I think we had until I was aged about six. I was a dog lover and I like cats, but don’t hold that against me. I grew up on a farm with 500 or so sheep and cattle and we have also kept deer. 

First piece of clothing bought

Hmm, it would have probably been some piece of sports equipment. I think it was a pair of rugby gloves. 

First ever CD/download

It was either Backstreet Boys or 5ive. My brother got a track from one of the bands and I got the other. I can’t remember the track.

First thing you ever learned to cook

Probably two-minute noodles. Now I realise that they are not that healthy I don’t really eat them and I now have quite a few dishes to draw from.

First car

I don’t how my mother ever let me get it but it is a bit of a boy racer car, a Suburu B4 two-litre twin turbo. I was aged 15-and-a-half when I got it and it did go quite fast. I had the car until I was aged 18.

Steve Landells for the IAAF