Olympic bronze medallist Tom Walsh has plenty of ground to make up on his main rivals in Tokyo, on evidence of his weekend in Tuscon, Arizona.
Walsh finished fourth on Saturday (Sunday NZT) at the US Throws Festival, behind a mammoth effort from Ryan Crouser which threatened the long-standing men’s shot put world record.
In his first international competition post-Covid, Walsh’s best was 21.62m, well behind Crouser who hit a world-leading 23.01m for a comfortable victory.
He was just 11cm off Randy Barnes’ world record from 1990, which still stands despite Barnes receiving a lifetime ban for taking banned substances.
Crouser, gold medallist in Rio in 2016, beat the Olympic runnerup Joe Kovacs by 97cm, with another American Darrell Hill third with a throw of 21.88m.
Walsh’s best of his six counting throws was below his target of 22m, and season-best of 21.79m in his national title victory in March. His personal best is 22.90m.
Two days previous, Walsh managed 21.71m in his first outing, with Crouser winning with a distance of 22.60m.
National throws coach Dale Stevenson said pre-departure of Walsh: “He’s a little nervous by his own admission.
“It’s been a while since he dusted ‘em off and competed against the big guys. He is fit, healthy and motivated. The reality is it’s been 18 months since we’ve had a read on this.”
New Zealand Olympic team-mate Lauren Bruce, meanwhile, finished sixth in the women’s hammer throw and couldn’t match the highs of 48 hours earlier.
After she made a memorable start to the overseas campaign, breaking Julia Ratcliffe’s national record with a winning throw of 74.61m on Friday, her best was 72.70m.
Bruce was 4.09m behind the winner, Gwen Berry of the US, whose 76.79m held off compatriot Brooke Andersen by 43cm.
A third member of the New Zealand throws squad, double Olympic champion Valerie Adams, is training with Stevenson in Christchurch and will depart for the US on June 6.