Callum Wilkinson secures himself Team GB place at Olympic Games
From the playground at Moulton Primary School to the Olympic Games – it’s far from a well trodden path, but for Callum Wilkinson its proven to be the perfect route to the very top.
All those years ago Wilkinson and a couple of friends would visualise themselves one day representing their country at one of sport’s biggest spectacles.
For the large majority it forever remains the stuff of childhood fantasy, but for Wilkinson, that dream is about to become reality.
Back in March the race walker was left frustrated at the British Olympic trials. He won the event by a comfortable margin but his finishing time was outside the standard required to book a ticket for the Games in Tokyo.
It meant that while Wilkinson was not quite drinking at the Last Chance Saloon on Saturday in the Spanish city of La Coruna, time was not on his side with the Olympics set to get under way on July 23.
But with the pressure very much on, the 24-year-old came to the fore, finishing sixth in a personal best 20km time of 80 minutes and 32 seconds to rubber-stamp his Team GB place.
“I still get emotional thinking about it – it’s a lot to take in,” said Moulton-raised Wilkinson, who had to overcome Covid-19 in April.
“It’s a childhood dream. I still remember clearly standing in Moulton Primary School playground talking to two friends and telling them how we were all going to go to the Olympics one day.
“Not a lot of people know this, but I had Covid in mid-April which meant I had to pull out of an event and it impacted on my training. Some of the symptoms lingered and at one stage I wasn’t sure if I could race in Spain.
“All that time I was just thinking about the phone call I could make to my mum and dad, telling them I was going to the Olympics. Thankfully I got to do that and one of my friends has got that on video.
“I had to work so hard. To use a phrase from poker, I was pot committed. I was so far in I couldn’t let this chance go.
“Saturday wasn’t perhaps the very last chance, but it was one of the last chances. There was plenty of pressure and I always demand the best of myself.
“I had to get it right and it was a good performance. I executed the plan well.
“I’ve been to two World Champs, the Europeans, Commonwealth Games and was world junior champion, but the Olympics is so much bigger.”
While the achievement is still very much sinking in, Wilkinson also has no intention of resting on his laurels.
His weekend display showed he is more than capable of rubbing shoulders with some of race walking’s big names, and he intends to give himself the best chance of proving that again in the Far East.
“The next couple of weeks I will be back with my family in Suffolk. I’ll still be training hard, but it will be nice to be home because it’s my last chance before going to Tokyo,” added the former King Edward VI School pupil.
“I spoke to Rob (Heffernan, coach) after the race at the weekend and while he is very proud of the achievement, we both know I can do a lot more. It’s always an athlete’s prerogative to want and expect more.
“I’m not going to Toyko to be a tourist, I want to be challenging those who are aiming for the medals.
“The quality of the field in Spain showed I’m the closest I’ve ever been but I know there is still a lot of hard work to be done.
“Now is not the time to take my foot off the gas, it’s full steam ahead to make sure I’m the best prepared I can be to give a really good account of myself.”