Suffolk race walker Wilkinson lifts national title and now targets a European medal
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Suffolk athlete Callum Wilkinson claimed his first national senior title, beating defending champion Tom Bosworth in the process, over the 20K distance at the British Grand Prix of Race Walking, held at Leeds on Saturday.
Wilkinson powered to victory in 1hr 21mins 46secs (81:46), which was a course record for the Roundhay Park route and also the fastest 20K clocked by a British athlete on British soil.
In addition to scooping the national title, and so ending the three-year reign of Bosworth, 22-year-old Wilkinson also rubber-stamped his place in the Great Britain team for the IAAF World Athletics Championships, to be staged in Doha later this year.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Bosworth finished a distant second in 1:24:10, with Italian Teodorico Caporaso third in 1:24:33 and Briton Cameron Curbishley in fourth with 1:24:42.
Now Wilkinson, who comes from Moulton near Newmarket, is targeting a medal at the European Under-23 Athletics Championships, which take place in Gavle, Sweden, next week. He will be in action in the 20K race on Sunday week (July 14, at 2.15pm).
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"It's been a good year for me so far. I have been consistent, training has been good, and last weekend was a big confidence booster," enthused Wilkinson.
"It was a difficult race to judge, due to the European Under-23s coming up in just two weeks, so the initial plan was to treat it as a training walk.
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"But I put in a big effort over the first 10K (half-way time of 40:33), which wasn't far off when I set my 20K personal best," said Wilkinson, with reference to his PB of 1:21:34, set at Podebrady in the Czech Reuplic in early April, when he went through half-way in 40:18.
Wilkinson continued: "That quick start put me out in front, from 3K to 10K, at which point I was caught. Tom (Bosworth) put in two surges between 11 and 13 kilometres, but I then managed to get a significant gap with my own surge and I guess, looking at the times, I could have afforded to slow a little over the final 5K.
"I'm very happy. It's the first time a fellow Briton has beaten Tom for about seven years, I believe, it was my first senior national title and I have qualified for the World Championships.
"Now I'm really excited about Sweden. I'm ranked No. 2 in the field, so I will be disappointed if I don't get a medal. I'm expecting a tactical race, which should suit me. The course is 1K loops, and it should be very hot."