Wilkinson receives funding boost ahead of 2017 step up

FUTURE GOALS:  Callum Wilkinson, who won the World Junior U20 Championship in Poland
FUTURE GOALS: Callum Wilkinson, who won the World Junior U20 Championship in Poland

Callum Wilkinson has admitted he is relishing the prospect of stepping into the unknown during 2017.

The last 12 months have been momentous for the Moulton athlete, crowned by his triumph at the World Under-20 Athletics Championships in July, when he became the first Brit to win a global race walking title since 1964.

Results of that magnitude helped to earn the 19-year-old a place on the recently-revealed British Athletics Futures Programme, which will see him receive extra funding for the second season in succession.

The news comes as Wilkinson prepares to make the switch from junior to senior events — and 10,000m to 20,000m — over the coming months, and he is aiming to keep on the upward trajectory.

“I was fairly confident of receiving the funding because I am in a very different position to the one I was in last year,” he said.

“It is a massive help. I tend to use the funds for physio, which helps keep me injury free and gets my body ready for the big competitions.

“I have got to double my distance, so my training has to match that. It is an exciting time.

“Things will be much different next year. This year I knew a medal at the Worlds was possible, but in 2017 I am going into it blind.

“To keep on improving, that is my major goal and something I am confident of achieving. Coming up against the very best in the world is only going to help.”

Over the coming months the globe’s leading athletes will have their eyes fixed firmly on the 2017 World Athletic Championships — a competition expected to be sprinter Usain Bolt’s last before retirement.

For Wilkinson, there is extra incentive to qualify, given that the event is hosted in London, giving him the chance to perform in front of a home crowd.

While the Mick Graham-trained athlete is refusing to get bogged down by the prospect of featuring at one of the sport’s biggest shows, he has conceded it would be a dream come true if he could be on the startline next August.

“Making the World Championships in my first year as a senior would be a great achievement, a real dream to tick off,” he added.

“Race walkers are not supposed to peak for a few more years yet, but hopefully I can be ahead of the curve.

“I probably will not know where I am in terms of times until March, then I can make a decision whether to push ahead to try and qualify.

“It is not the be all and end all, though. I have time on my side and have to make sure I just keeping progressing.

“It would be amazing to compete in front of a home crowd. British people love their sport and give great support.”