New Zealand Bank Historic Shot One-two In Birmingham
The rock stars of the shot put circle served up a heavy metal performance to remember as Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill secured the first one two for New Zealand in an athletics event for 60 years on a memorable night at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Not since Sir Peter Snell and John Davies won gold and silver in the mile at the 1962 Games in Perth has New Zealand filled the top two spots of an athletics podium at a Commonwealth Games and tonight at the Alexandra Stadium, Tom and Jacko created their slice of history in a world-class demonstration of throwing.
Jacko produced the performance of his life, firing out a huge new PB with a final round effort of 21.90m for a richly deserved silver but Tom remains the king of the shot circle unleashing a mighty best of 22.26m as he claimed back-to-back Commonwealth titles.
With the Kiwi throwing titans ranked one and two there was an expectation thrust upon the pair and both spectacularly coped with any pressure they may have been feeling. In a measure of their superiority, the two Kiwis produced ten of the 12 longest throws of the competition played on a sun-kissed but chilly night in England’s second city.
Tom Walsh seized early control of the competition launching the shot out to a formidable 21.98m in round one – a mark in excess of the PB of every other athlete in the field to make a clear statement he would be the man to beat in Birmingham.
Jacko responded by moving into provisional silver with his first round effort, tossing the 7.26kg shot to 20.48m as the powerhouse New Zealand duo quickly came to the fore.
There was no improvement for Tom in round two as the Timaru-raised athlete registered 21.46m while Jacko took a tighter grip on silver by improving to 20.88m as the rest of the field struggled in the wake of the Kiwi pair.
In front of a packed and atmospheric stadium, Tom maintained his outstanding series with a 21.52m throw in round three. Nigerian Chukwuebuka Enekwechi advanced to outright third with a 20.33m effort while Jacko showed no further improvement with a 20.41m toss.
The Kiwi pair further cemented their position in the top two in round four as Jacko unleashed his best yet - a 21.20m effort - while Tom let out a trademark roar as he powered the 7.26kg shot out to 21.84m.
Roared on by a passionate home crowd, Scott Lincoln of England elevated himself to provisional bronze with a handy 20.57m in round five while Jacko maintained his momentum adding a further 9cm on to his best of the day with a 21.29m effort.
Yet such are the high standards the 27-year-old Aucklander sets himself he shook his head in frustration at the throw. Tom followed with his shortest effort of the comp – registering 21.05m.
The competition then exploded into life in an epic final round. While there was no significant improvement from the remainder of the field, Jacko unleashed a huge new personal best by 32cm to drill the shot out to 21.90m.
The distance was within a mere 8cm of his long-time New Zealand rival but elevated the Kiwi to a whole new realm in global shot putting as he advanced to number eight on the world lists for 2022.
But the competition was not quite finished. Responding to Jacko’s statement, Tom boomed the shot out to a massive 22.26m – within 5cm of his seasons best – to ice a wonderful and historic competition for New Zealand sport.
Tom, who becomes the second New Zealand man (the other is Nick Willis) to win athletics medals at three successive Commonwealth Games after silver in Glasgow 2014 and gold in Gold Coast four years ago, said: “I knew Jacko was in some pretty good form and I didn’t put the competition to bed as early as I would have liked. To get hold of that last throw was cool, but the other throws were knocking at the door, so I’m really happy with the way I competed.
“When Jacko put out his sixth round throw, I thought shit he’s got hold of one I might be in a bit of trouble. I was lucky enough to have one up my sleeve. It is great for Jacko (to set a PB and win silver), great for shot put and athletics in New Zealand. Every year he is getting closer and it is going to be an interesting domestic season again next year.
“To win here I think you realise how hard it is, how much goes into it all coming together. I have gratitude that I am here, physically and mentally in really good nick. I appreciate that a lot more as a I get older and wiser.”
For Jacko, a former World U20 and U18 champion, it was a first senior international medal, and he said: “It’s probably one of the best moments of my career. To come back from the heart issues has been huge, a really big battle. I lost 25-30kg after my heart issues and I missed the last Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, so to come back here and set a PB means a lot.
“It’s been a long process and to come back after such a long break was really hard. My parents have been a huge support and getting help from Dale (Stevenson, a coaching mentor) has been awesome.
“I thought my last throw was really good, and I thought I had a 20 per cent chance (of moving ahead of Tom with that throw) so I was a little big disappointed.
‘But to win silver gives me huge confidence. I have been in great form so to finally put one out there is really nice.”
The next Kiwis in action inside the Alexandra Stadium compete later tonight NZ time
9.17pm – Keeley O’Hagan – Women’s High Jump final
0.10am (Sunday) – Sam Tanner – Men’s 1500m final