‘There’s more to come,’ insists Suffolk’s Callum Wilkinson after London race walk
- Credit: PA
Callum Wilkinson declared that there is “more to come” from him, following today’s excellent showing in the men’s 20K race walk at the World Athletics Championships in London.
Suffolk-based Wilkinson had the accolade of finishing the top Briton – and in fact the only male race walker to finish on a beautifully warm day in the Capital – in what was his first taste of a global championship at senior level.
The 20-year-old was just outside his personal best time (1hr 22mins 17secs, set in the Czech Republic in May), but still dug deep to finish 41st overall in a fine time of 1:23.54 from a world-class field, considering the warm conditions.
It was an afternoon of high drama on The Mall with fellow Briton, Tom Bosworth, a serious medal contender, disqualified after picking up his third red card while leading the race.
Earlier in the day, Essex-based Dominic King, of Colchester Harriers, had also suffered the heart-ache of being disqualified during the men’s 50K race walk.
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King was Team GB’s only representative in this gruelling event, but was disqualified around the half-way mark.
But Wilkinson lasted the course, and stayed on the right side of the officials, to cap a memorable day.
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The highly-rated Wilkinson, who comes from Moulton near Newmarket, and is a former pupil at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, had been crowned world junior champion over 10K in Poland last year, so he was used to competing with the best in the world.
However, today’s race was a big step up in class, both in terms of distance (20K rather than 10K), but also because it was a senior competition.
I managed to grab a few minutes with a happy Wilkinson, after the race. He enthused: “It was an amazing experience.
“The crowds were brilliant and I loved it all. It was just how I imagined it would be.
“I wouldn’t say that I am over-happy with my time, or my position, but there is definitely more to come from me. I’m just pleased to get round. It was a really tough race, so thanks to the fans who pulled me through it.
“I wanted to get up amongst it, but these guys put on an absolute show, it was an insane time, it killed me. I was just trying to cling on to what was left.
“I’m gutted for Tom (Bosworth), race walking is brutal,” added Wilkinson.
Wilkinson had targeted a top 20 finish in London, but despite failing to achieve that aim, he will now use this disappointment to spur him on in future events – next year’s Commonwealth Games, on Australia’s Gold Coast, is his next big target.
“It was really tough out there today,” added Wilkinson. “It was not quite the performance I had hoped for, because I was in a lot better shape than that.
“But I’m only 20 and to be able to be out there in a home championships in front of one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever had for a race walk, was great.
“My plan was to get stuck in right from the off and try and hide away in the front pack and just get pulled along. But it was a world class race from the very start, so by 8km I was really starting to feel it and these guys were pulling away from me. It shows that to have a medal chance you’ve got to be something special.
“I struggled through the second half but it’s a massive thank you to everyone out on the course today who really pulled me through. I think 20th place was 1:20.00, and that was my target, but it didn’t happen.”
The crowds lined the sun-kissed 2K loop on The Mall, with athletes completing 10 laps from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch. Wilkinson received superb support all around the course, especially from family, friends and supporters who had made the trip down from Suffolk.
Many of the competitors looked very distressed by the end of their ordeal, but Wilkinson was able to salute to the spectators and raise a big smile as he approached the final few yards to the finish.
He is now coached by Andi Drake up in Leeds, but in the past has been coached by Suffolk’ Mick Graham. His mentor is Ron Wallwork, gold medallist from the race walk at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966. Wallwork was in London yesterday to cheer on Wilkinson.
Meanwhile, fellow East Anglia athlete King was disqualified for three ‘bent knee’ red cards, when on course for a personal best.
After finishing 51st at London 2012, King was disqualified for the same reason at Rio 2016.
King explained: “I did well to get here but I didn’t want to come here and just walk round at the back. I was pleased I was inside my personal best pace.”