Tom Walsh settles for fourth as Ryan Crouser grabs glory in world champs shot put

Tom Walsh could not quite find the “smooth” he was searching for and came up agonisingly short of a medal in a thrilling shot put final at the athletics world championships in Eugene, Oregon on Monday (NZT).

The 30-year-old Christchurch-based, Timaru athlete could not prevent an American clean-sweep of the event as he had to settle for fourth with a best throw of 22.08 meters in a captivating and see-sawing final won by world record- holder, and double Olympic champion, Ryan Crouser by just 5cm.

The result ended a shot at three straight world championship medals by the Kiwi, following his gold in London in 2017 and bronze in Doha in 2019.

Giant American Crouser, had to dig deep to haul in double world champion and compatriot Joe Kovacs, producing a brilliant fifth-round throw, and championship record, of 22.94m to claim his first world title at the Hayward Field track not far from where he grew up in Oregon. He now owns eight of the top 11 throws all time in his sport di lui.

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Kovacs led early with his first-round 22.63m, saw Crouser hit the lead with 22.71m in the second round, then regained the lead in the fifth round with a fabulous toss of 22.89m to put the onus on his rival.

Walsh’s best throw, and only post-22m effort, also came in a sizzling fifth round. But it was not enough to haul in American Josh Awotunde who grabbed the bronze medal with his PB of 22.29m which also came in the penultimate round.

New Zealand's Jacko Gill finished seventh in the men's shot put final at the world championships in Eugene.

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

New Zealand’s Jacko Gill finished seventh in the men’s shot put final at the world championships in Eugene.

Fellow Kiwi Jacko Gill finished seventh in the shot put final with a best throw of 21.40m which came with his sixth and final attempt.

Walsh said he could never quite find his rhythm in a frustrating final.

“I just wasn’t really in the competition the whole time, just a bit pushy, and not smooth like I throw when I throw well,” he said afterwards. “To throw 22.08 like that is quite a surprise which means physically I’m in the right shape but I just didn’t quite give myself the chance to throw a long way.”

Walsh felt he was “trying too hard, and that’s not when I throw well” and admitted that was frustrating because “I had it in training and bits and pieces in competitions leading up, but just didn’t have it today.

“I didn’t give up, and was trying to be in the fight. I knew I had the gears to get there, and gave myself a chance on the last throw, but just didn’t give myself the time to get through the circle. “

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Kiwi star Zoe Hobbs couldn’t quite match the pace of her rivals in the semifinals of the 100m at the world championships.

It was not quite sprinter Zoe Hobbs’ day either in the semifinals of the 100 meters in Eugene.

Racing in the slowest of the three semis, the 24-year-old Taranaki-raised, Auckland-based athlete came home fifth in 11.13 seconds. Only the top two progressed directly to the final, as well as the fastest two from outside those spots.

Hobbs was not able to match her Oceania record of 11.08sec set in the heats as she started strongly, and was behind only race winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.93sec) around the halfway stage. But she faded over the second half, with American Aleia Hobbs nabbing the semi’s second automatic spot in 10.95sec.

Kiwi Zoe Hobbs, left, was right in the mix with Aleia Hobbs and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in her 100m world champs seeds.

Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Kiwi Zoe Hobbs, left, was right in the mix with Aleia Hobbs and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in her 100m world champs seeds.

The race was not without its drama, with the Bahamas’ TyNia Gaither disqualified after a marginal false start was picked up. The athlete was visibly upset by the decision and attempted a protest which fell on deaf ears.

Hobbs said it had been an “epic” feeling to be on the big stage with the world’s best sprinters and said the false start, and subsequent delay, had “added a little drama and stress”.

“Third time lucky, I got away well again, and felt like I was up there with the girls at the front and just didn’t manage to hold on,” said Hobbs. “I think I panicked again due to a lack of experience running against this level of girls. I tightened up a bit and didn’t execute the end as well as I would have hoped.

“But It gives me a lot of excitement. I know i’m capable of running faster than 11.08, and it’s just putting together the right race. If I could finish like I started, that would be the ultimate goal. It’s trying to piece together that right race. “

Jamaica completed a sweep in the final at the end of the evening session, with the great Fraser-Pryce grabbing her fifth world title in a sizzling 10.67sec, just ahead of Shericka Jacson (10.73s), with Elaine Thomson-Herah (10.81s ) completing the podium.

Bay of Plenty’s Sam Tanner also failed by the skin of his teeth to progress past the semifinals of the 1500m when he was not quite able to find a kick when it mattered and faded to eighth in the second of the two semifinals.

Still, the Kiwi’s time of 3min 36.32sec – just a little over 2 seconds off his PB – went agonisingly close to earning a spot in the final. With the first five from each semi, plus the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers, making it through, Tanner found himself just one spot off safe passage.

His time was better than all five automatic qualifiers from the opening semifinal, including Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen. That race was won by Britain’s Josh Kerr in 3: 36.92.

But Tanner just could not haul in the two runners in front of him in his semi, with Poland’s Mikal Rozmys (3: 35.27) and the USA’s Josh Thompson (3: 35.55) gaining the two “lucky loser” spots.

Kiwi pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart completed a disappointing championships when she no-heighted at her opening mark of 4.30 meters in the women’s pole vault final.

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