He may be a junior world champion, but Newmarket’s Callum Wilkinson learned some vital lessons on his senior World Championship debut after finishing 41st in the 20km race walk on Sunday.
Aged just 19, Wilkinson won the World Junior 10km race walk last year, but found the step up in distance and age group difficult to live with on the circuit race up and down London’s iconic Mall.
Wilkinson eventually came home in a time of 1:23:54, more than a minute-and-a-half shy of his personal best, set earlier this year.
Having targeted a top 20 finish in London, the fearless 20-year-old is simply using this disappointment as fuel for his future ambitions - with next year’s Commonwealth Games, on Australia’s Gold Coast, his next big target.
“It was really tough out there today,” he said. “Not quite the performance I had hoped for, I was in a lot better shape than that.
“But it was an amazing experience for me. I’m 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 and 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.”
Elsewhere on The Mall, fellow East Anglia athlete Dominic King, of Colchester Harriers, 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, and lightning struck twice on The Mall as he was forced to withdraw before the half way point.
“I did well to get here but I didn’t want to come here and just walk round at the back,” he said.
“I was pleased I was inside my personal best pace. I am just disappointed that the judges didn’t think the technique was up to scratch, which is fair enough.
“I am honoured to where the GB vest and I am really proud of my achievements but I have ambitions to do even better, which is why I am disappointed with today.”
* You can help the next generation of young British athletes by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with London 2012 hero Greg Rutherford MBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek