Tom Walsh after winning the shot put at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
After Tomas Walsh's 22.14m in qualifying, the scene was set for the big men of the athletics world to take centre stage. The Olympic bronze medallist from New Zealand did not disappoint, heaving the 7.26kg implement out to 22.03m at the head of a shot put contest with the greatest strength in depth of any competition of all time.
Not only was it the first competition in history with seven men beyond 21 metres, but the distances recorded by the athletes in fifth to 11th were also best ever marks for those respective positions. On top of that, Walsh's best throw was the equal third farthest winning throw in IAAF World Championships history, behind only Werner Gunthor's championship record of 22.23m from 1987 and Reese Hoffa's 22.04m from 2007. It matched the distance achieved by Christian Cantwell en route to gold in 2009.
On this occasion, defending champion Joe Kovacs of the USA had to settle for silver with 21.66m, while Croatia's Stipe Zunic took a surprise bronze with 21.46m, just two centimetres shy of his lifetime best.
“This gold medal is something that me and my team behind me have been working on for so long,” revealed Walsh. “I did not want to do 22 metres in the qualification and then lose it in the final. To pull it out on the last one is awesome.”
The top three athletes remained in the same order from round two, with Walsh rewarded for producing a consistent series where all six of his puts went out to beyond 21 metres. The 25-year-old showed he is an athlete who thrives on the big occasion by saving his best for the final round to extend his winning margin to 37 centimetres.
It had looked like Kovacs might challenge for the top spot earlier in the sixth round when his put landed around the 22 metre mark, but it was ruled a foul – despite his protest – as he had touched the top of the stopboard.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser – who held seven of the 10 furthest marks of 2017 coming into the event, headed by his 22.65m at the US Championships – was unable to find his form. In sixth place, the US champion recorded just 21.20m, his shortest distance in any competition in 2017 by more than half a metre. The US team had, however, protested a throw of about 22 metres that had been judged to be a foul in the third round, but the protest was subsequently rejected.
Crouser's US teammate and namesake Ryan Whiting – twice the world indoor champion and the 2013 world silver medallist – managed 21.09m for seventh.
Germany's two-time world champion David Storl fared even worse in tenth, recording two fouls followed by 20.80m – more than a metre down on his season's best – which was not enough to qualify for a further three throws.
Behind the medallists, the Czech Republic's Tomas Stanek – the fourth athlete beyond 22 metres in 2017 – placed fourth with his 21.41m from round two, while Poland's European silver medallist Michal Haratyk recorded the same distance in fifth for his highest ever position in a global championships.
Further down the field, Poland's European indoor champion Konrad Bukowiecki threw 20.89m for eighth, Walsh's New Zealand teammate Jacko Gill – twice the world U20 champion – placed ninth with 20.82m, the USA's Darrell Hill was over a metre off his best with 20.79m in 11th, while Romania's world indoor silver medallist Andrei Gag failed to reach 20 metres, throwing just 19.96m in the first round.
Emily Moss for the IAAF