Champion Wilkinson: ‘I am not done yet’
‘This is only the beginning’ — that is the message from Callum Wilkinson after he ended a 52-year Great British dry spell last weekend.
Not since Ken Matthews at the 1964 Olympic Games in Toyko had an athlete wearing a British vest won a major international race walking event.
That was until Wilkinson, who hails from Moulton, strode to victory over 10km in the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.
The plaudits have since swooped in from far and wide, with Lord Sebastian Coe and Paula Radcliffe both congratulating the 19-year-old, while Britain’s leading race walker, Tom Bosworth, saluted the triumph as the start of the sport’s revival in this country.
It is a sentiment ratified by Wilkinson, who is determined to capitalise on the momentum.
“It would be a complete waste of time if this was to be the pinnacle of my career,” he said.
“After all this, I do not want to peak at the age of 19 and become another teenage drop out that once showed some promise.
“This is the biggest event you can win at junior level, so I have shown I can beat the best.
“Now I want more achievements. It will come down to keeping the right mindset and working hard in training, especially on the tough days.
“I have made no secret of the fact I want to progress all the way. That means Olympics, World Championships and other senior events.
“There is no reason why I cannot drive British race walking on. Hopefully others will be inspired by my performance.”
The race itself, which got under way in perfect conditions, started in surprisingly slow fashion.
After leading from early on during May’s World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome, only to finish fourth, Wilkinson made a conscious decision with coach Mike Graham to remain within the pack in the opening exchanges.
But, with the pace too lackadaisical for his liking, the teenager made a break for the front towards the half-way point and was never caught, eventually finishing in a world-leading time of 40 minutes and 41.62 seconds.
“I went out hard in Rome and when you are leading, others can make judgements on you,” he added.
“Poland was a lot slower than I thought though, and when I made an initial push it was only supposed to be for 1km, and I assumed the rest would follow.
“The closer I got to finishing, the more I realised it was not hurting me.
“When you are out in front, it feels like someone is on your shoulder and will go past at any time.
“But, that did not happen. Instead, they were clinging to me just to get themselves a medal.”