Improving Wilkinson has medals on his mind

MOULTON: Race walking - featuring GB star Callum Wilkinson
The Village Hall, Bridge Street, Moulton
Picture Mark Westley ANL-160506-173539009

MOULTON: Race walking - featuring GB star Callum Wilkinson The Village Hall, Bridge Street, Moulton Picture Mark Westley ANL-160506-173539009

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A change in mindset has Callum Wilkinson believing that he is capable of returning home from the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Poland with a medal.

It has been somewhat of a breakthrough year for the 19-year-old race-walker, who has smashed numerous domestic and international records.

Yet, it was Wilkinson’s most recent outing at the British Championships in Birmingham that truly captured the imagination.

The Moulton-based athlete had planned to use the 5,000m event as merely a warm-up for Saturday’s big race in Bydgoszcz, but in finishing second, Wilkinson clocked a time of 19 minutes and 35.40 seconds — a world junior lead for 2016.

It is all a far cry from 12 months ago, when Wilkinson was simply content to make up the numbers.

“Walking the world lead was a nice confidence boost. It’s going really well and I am really looking forward to Poland,” he said.

“I was just trying to compete and maybe get in the top 10 in 2015, but now I would be lying if I said I was not going for the medals. That is where we are at now.

“This time last year, it was the last few days before the European team. I chased and chased the time to qualify and eventually did it in one of my last two chances.

“Whereas, this year, my first two races of the season I set British records and in the third although I got disqualified, I was on for an amazing time. That is just a bit of an occupational hazard.

“The fourth one I walked the qualifying time for all of the competitions for the rest of the year. I could have stopped racing in March and just trained all the way through until now.

“I’ve raced regularly the last few weeks. The amount of race practice has been really good. It helps perfect the warm-up routine and all the other things we have to do before a race to ensure you’re in the best shape for the big one.”

When Wilkinson stands on the start-line with 10,000m ahead of him at the weekend, his mind is likely to revert back to May and the World Race Walking Team Championships.

The youngster seemed to be on course for a bronze medal in Rome, only to be pipped by Mexico’s Noel Ali Chama late on.

It is that fourth-place finish, coupled with Wilkinson’s ever growing self-belief, that he has insisted will spur him on this time around.

“I got so close last time finishing fourth. Now, I want to make sure that I am doing all the little things right to give me the best possible chance of putting in a top performance,” he added.

“Sometimes, when you’re setting records and then you have a bad race, it seems like a million times worse than it actually is. I’m on such a roll, when you have to take a hit, it knocks you down.

“From Rome, I took a step back. A few hours after the adrenaline had gone I was thinking how I had just finished fourth in the world, but that didn’t feel good enough for me.

“In a way it makes you think ‘what is this kid saying? Four years ago he didn’t even race walk and now he’s fourth in the world and that is not good enough.’

“That is because I know there are things that I didn’t do quite right. It is always the ‘what if’ with a fourth place. I really want to improve on that.”