Two-time world indoor shot put champion Ryan Whiting went on a trip Down Under last month to compete in New Zealand. While out in Middle Earth, he wrote a diary for SPIKES. Dear diary…

February 20 – Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

“…I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow. I woke up today and tried to leave the house but got stuck in nearly two feet of snow that drifted into my driveway over night. After two hours of plowing in -30C temps my driveway was finally clear. I am ready to fly into summer. 

“My wife Ashley, son Charlie and I are packed. No surprise a tonne of luggage is required to take a 21-month old half way around the world. The flights will be exhausting but worth the trip: State College to DC (1 hour), DC to San Francisco (6 hours) San Francisco to Auckland (13 hours) Auckland to Christchurch (1.5 hours). Tom Walsh told me it was 23C today in Christchurch, New Zealand. I can't wait.”

February 22 – Christchurch, New Zealand

“Well, 29 hours and 11,000 miles of flying and we are finally in Christchurch! It was overcast on our flight from Auckland to Christchurch so we only got brief glimpses of the countryside. When we did see the ground it showed hints of its beauty! My son Charlie and wife handled the trip like champs. Ashley played super mom and Charlie slept more than anyone, curled up on the floor under our seats.” 

Ryan Whiting's Diary  ()

"I haven't driven on the other side of the road by accident – yet..."

“Right when we got off our last flight we were met by Paul Coughlin, who organised the whole trip/meet for us. He has been extremely generous and accommodating in flying my family and I down here for The Big Shot and surrounding adventure. 

“I'll head over to the Athletics NZ training facility today and get a quick throwing and lifting session in today to help my body recover from flying. Looking forward to the experience.”

February 24 – Christchurch 

“Training down here at the NZ High Performance Centre in Christchurch has been awesome. It is nice to be able to train outside this time of year for once! My family and I took the Christchurch Gondola to the top of a mountain yesterday. It was nice and clear out so we could see the whole area, it really is a beautiful place.” 

Ryan Whiting's Diary  ()

Whiting Jnr checking out the amazing view

“Driving on the "wrong" side of the road took a little getting used to, but now it is just moderately confusing. I haven't driven on the other side of the road by accident yet, but I do accidently turn on the windshield wipers when trying to signal pretty regularly. 

“This morning we went and checked out Sumner Beach, the sand is powdery and the water is icy cold. There are some very nice houses perched along the cliffs across from the beach and a line of shipping containers at the bottom. I assume these are used to protect the roadway from falling rocks as an after effect of the 2011 earthquake and construction. I'm ready to finally compete!”

February 25 – Christchurch

”I relaxed in the morning with my family and went to the beautiful Sumner Beach after breakfast. It was around 27C when we pulled up to the beach and stepped onto the powdery, dark sand. Dogs were running everywhere, but no one was in the water. Upon further investigation the lack of swimming is due to the freezing cold water.” 

“Tom [Walsh], Damo [Australian shot putter Damian Birkinhead] and I walked over around 3.30pm and met all of the meet sponsors. By the time we made our way over to the competition area at 4.30pm the temperature had dropped to 14C and the wind picked up. It was a huge difference from the morning temps but still much better than the -25C at home right now! The competition area looks awesome, right in the heart of the city. 

“I warmed up well despite the temps. First throw foul. The second was a cautious but an easy 20.40m. The third was an area record of 21.03m. Still missing it a bit. I'm not happy with the distance, but the New Zealand all-comers record is nice to have and the meet was well set up! I got to meet all of the local kids and gave away the pair of shoes I competed in today to two young girls.

“All of the guys I competed with ended the night at Lone Star cafe with some huge meals and pitchers of beer. On to Auckland tomorrow!

February 26 – Auckland, New Zealand

“We left Christchurch at 10.45am for Auckland. Tom and I sat across from each other and listened to a grown man complain about being hit with the food cart. We decide we have no sympathy for him as we arrive. 

“Dale Stevenson picks us all up in a van and we head to the hotel for a short rest. Immediately I am pleased with the 32C weather. My body is a little tired but I am looking forward to tonight.” 

Ryan Whiting's Diary  ()

"You can't sit with us."

“Around 5.30pm we get to the track. The club is impressive, a nice outdoor track and a very nice field house. I snacked on a cheeseburger and some nachos – ah it is good to be a thrower – and hung out with the guys and my family before the meet. Charlie and Ashley finally got to meet Valerie Adams also. She looks and sounds like she is getting over her surgery very well.

”We warmed up outside the stadium. I feel okay, Tom is definitely looking better. We are taken into the competition area for our two warm up throws. My hand is a little sore from the comp a day ago, but due to the weather I feel better in general. I opened with 21.27m, another all-comers and meet record and furthest throw of the comp. Good start. The ring is slower and we are throwing out of a circle cut 5-6 inches into the ground – odd. I put together a good series, but I am in shape for much more. I chalk up two wins in two days and move on, happy with the experience. 

“We went for dinner at the casino with all of the guys. Back to Christchurch in the morning.”

February 27 – Christchurch

“After the short flight back to Christchurch my family and I packed up for a day at the beach. The weather was great and made the drive over the mountain to Taylor's Mistake that much better. Ashley worked on her tan while Charlie and I dug a giant "swimming hole" by the water. Charlie jumped in and out 100s of times and had a blast. The water was cold but refreshing after days of competing and travelling. I would highly recommend this spot if you get a chance to visit the area.

“The night was capped off at “The Brewer's Arms” with a hot stone self-cooked variety of meats and some cold beer. Good day!”

March 3 – Christchurch, then

Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

“I practiced with Tom [Walsh] this morning in the beautiful weather for the last time. I was a little sore from heavy lifting early in the week but all in all it went well. I threw a very light shot (5.5kg) for the last six throws for some fun. My timing was sketchy at best but my furthest of 24.89m sailed out of the sector. Light shots are fun to play with sometimes. It was a good end to my NZ training.

“After packing up our substantial amount of luggage Paul [Tom's manager] took us to the airport. Our last flight from DC to State College was listed as delayed for an hour. With it being 8.30pm already and the rain/ice storm going on, we decided to ditch the flight and rent a car to drive the remaining 3.5 hours home. About five minutes after the decision our flight got cancelled. For some reason it took three hours to get our luggage, but at 11.45pm we were on our way. 

“Four hours later and 36 hours after starting our journey we were home – almost. My house has a 300m sloped gravel driveway and upon arriving home it had over a foot of snow and thanks to the current storm a sheet of ice that was still coming down we left the car at the top of the driveway and I carried Charlie down to the house. At 5.15am we were in bed! Long trip, but well worth it.

“It took me four hours to dig all the snow and ice from our driveway with my tractor the following day. Winter needs to be over. I am extremely thankful to everyone in NZ for giving my family and a brief but extremely satisfying respite from the winter weather. I will be going back!”