Callum Wilkinson storms to Olympic trials race walks victory

3 weeks ago
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In-form Enfield & Haringey athlete enjoys big win ahead of Tom Bosworth at Kew Gardens although he misses the Olympic qualifying standard as Heather Lewis takes the women’s race

Callum Wilkinson blasted to an emphatic win at the British Olympic 20km race walks trials at Kew Gardens on Friday (March 26) but the 24-year-old said he was “gutted and embarrassed” not to break the Olympic qualifying standard of 81:00.

Wilkinson clocked 82:47 as he beat Tom Bosworth by well over three minutes but he said: “I’m really disappointed, gutted and embarrassed. It’s not at all what I’m capable of and I’ll have to reflect of that. I got the win, though, which is a small comfort.”

He has several more attempts at the qualifying mark in coming weeks and he added: “But it’s a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ when it comes to the qualifying time.

“It is a high-quality qualifying mark and you’ve got to be really sharp and on top of your game to do it. I am confident I will do it.

“Today was bittersweet. It was a difficult day and the time was a lot below what I am capable of. I’m a little bemused to be honest. Although 81:00 is a savage qualifying mark and if you do that then you’re really going to be up there in a world-class 20km field.

“Today I race-walked a very average 20km, if I’m brutally honest.”

Runner-up Bosworth however secured his qualification for Tokyo as he already has the Olympic standard. The 31-year-old is not in top shape due to injury but was sixth in the last Olympics in Rio and will be aiming for the podium in Japan this summer.

At Kew Gardens he clocked 86:24 whereas at his best his British record is 79:38. In third, Guy Thomas clocked 90:19.

Callum Wilkinson (Mark Shearman)

The race walks started shortly after dawn at a cool, damp and slightly breezy venue. Wilkinson stormed into an immediate lead and passed 5km in 20:10 with a big lead over Bosworth.

Wilkinson, who is coached by 2013 world 50km champion Rob Heffernan, is clearly in great form. Earlier this month he improved his own UK 10,000m record by nearly 50 seconds with a new time of 39:05.85 in Newport. And in Kew Gardens he looked a class apart as he built up a big lead.

Wilkinson added: “Fair play to Tom Bedford and his team for putting this race on. The most important thing is that we had this trials happening. If I can just do the qualifying time now then I’m on the plane.”

Heather Lewis won the women’s race in 95:44. Like Wilkinson she stamped her authority over the race in the early stages. However Gemma Bridge overtook her mid-race before Bridge was disqualified for breaking technical rules shortly afterwards.

Heather Lewis (Mark Shearman)

Lewis was outside her PB of 94:49 but was all smiles at the finish after emerging as a comfortable winner. Runner-up was Bethan Davies, who clocked 97:04.

“Generally I feel like I’m fitter than the time suggests,” said Lewis, who still believes she can nail the 91:00 Olympic qualifying mark. “I found it tough out there being by myself and the atmosphere was slightly lonely at times.

“I love having company and I really felt for Gemma when she was disqualified. I would have preferred her to have pulled me along.”

Runner-up Davies said: “I’m really happy with today as I’ve had a really inconsistent block of training with shingles and all kinds of problems. I need to start working back toward my PB (91:53) now and I hope with consistent training I can get back there.

“It was quite cold and windy when we started but it was a beautiful course and I loved it and I hope we’re allowed back here in future.”

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