6 Dec 2017

NZ athletes to show their skills at home

11:52 am on 6 December 2017

Just a couple of weeks before next April's Commonwealth Games, New Zealanders will get the chance to see two of our leading hopes for gold medals on the Gold Coast in action up close and personal.

Tom Walsh shot put world champion.

Tom Walsh shot put world champion. Photo: Photosport

World champion shot putter Tom Walsh and pole vault star Eliza McCartney were on Tuesday confirmed as the headline acts for the Athletics New Zealand International Series in March.

The series will feature events in four different places, including Walsh's home-town Timaru, Christchurch, Auckland and the iconic Cooks Gardens in Whanganui.

Walsh heads into 2018 as one of the elite members of the men's shot put world after a series of standout efforts.

The 25-year-old described 2017 as one hell of a year, a statement that was probably fair enough when you consider, among other achievements, he did add a world championship crown to his increasingly impressive shot put CV.

He got five weeks off at the end of his busy season, giving him the chance to throw his builders apron back on and do a few days work on his own, almost-completed, house.

But breaks for elite athletes are rarely too long and ahead of a 2018 that includes a World Indoor Champs and Commonwealth Games, Walsh had already ripped back into training.

At six foot one and around 120 kilograms, he's already added a backflip to his bag of tricks and said he won't be slowing down over the holiday period.

"A lot of people in the working world have time off over Christmas and New Years, I can't afford to do that.

"It's a very important time of year for me. I've got a comp in late January to get ready for. I've just got to work right through [the break]."

The same is true for McCartney.

The now 20-year-old thrilled the nation with her bronze medal at last year's Rio Olympics but the end to her 2017 season was not so memorable as struggles with an achilles injury left her to settle for ninth at August's World Champs.

Eliza McCartney.

Eliza McCartney. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McCartney's national secondary schools record of 4.10 metres was also broken at the weekend by teenager Olivia McTaggart, who shattered the previous mark by 20 centimetres.

But after a short break the effervescent young Aucklander's rehab is tracking well and she said this year's disappointment will become a positive in the long run.

"You've got to have those hard times to know what it is to have a good time.

"And you've got to be able get through those hard times so you know how to deal with them when they come up again, because they probably will.

"It's really valuable to have gone through it and luckily this year wasn't a major year so it didn't matter much that I had to find my feet through injury."

Walsh also battled injury issues in 2017 but said he is now back in tip-top shape.

It bodes well for a big performance at the World Indoors, where he is defending champ, and the Commonwealth Games, where he is determined to go one better than his silver-medal effort in 2014.

Walsh said the New Zealand series will be ideal preparation for the Gold Coast and can't wait to host one of the events in his home town.

"I'm sure there will be a few messages and phone calls about 'hey hook up a brother up and get me onto the hospitality table' and things like that.

"I'm just really excited to take a community event back to Timaru and involve the kids and the public in what I do."

McCartney will also play host to an event, with the Vertical Pursuit pole vault competition on the move after it's first edition early this year.

The event will fittingly be held directly in the shadows of the Sky Tower and Athletics New Zealand are hoping for a crowd of 1000-plus to create what should be a superb setting for some of the sport's best.

McCartney is yet to set herself a specific target for the event but said fans can expect all the athletes to be putting up some impressive numbers.

"Because it so close to the Commonwealth Games it's going to be my second-to-last competition before I head into pre-camp and then go away [to the Gold Coast].

"It's going to be a big one and you're going to want it to be going well and be ready because it's going to be the last test of how you're going.

"It's going to be really exciting and to do it in such a cool atmosphere will just make it even better."

The series starts with the Timaru Super Shot on March 14 and wraps up with the Sir Graeme Douglas International in West Auckland 11 days later.