The 15 strong GB team for the European Junior Championships in Eskilstuna, Sweden between 15th & 19th July was one of the most successful ever winning 11 gold, more than double any other nation and 6 silver medals, easily topping the points table. For the first time in many years two walkers, Emma Achurch and Callum Wilkinson, were included in the squad and a couple of others narrowly missed qualifying for selection.
The women’s race was the first on the programme; 9:30am on 15th July. With her preparation hampered by exams Emma Achurch was unable to produce her early season form, but nevertheless posted a track personal of 50:51.58 for 22nd place. Russian’s Klavdiya Afanasyeva 43:36.88, Olga Shargina 44:01.08 and Mariya Losinova 44:19.05 made a lean sweep of the women’s medals.
The men’s event was at 10:30am on 18th July and Callum Wilkinson is to be congratulated on his outstanding performance. This championship was his main target for the year and his seventh place in 41:34.36, which shaved 18 seconds off Darrell Stone’s national under 20 record set when finishing fourth in the 1987 edition of the championships, was just reward for his dedication and application over the past 12 months. Three seconds covered 5th, 6th and 7th places, but although losing out in the final lap battle, he was more than pleased with his performance. Five of the six walkers in front of him were in their final year in this age group.
The winner Diego Garcia (Spain) was always in control of the race passing 5km in 20:10, to Wilkinson’s 20:40 and although the Suffolk and Enfield walker slowed slightly around the 6km mark, he rallied to a final 5km of 20:53. Russia’s Vladislav Saraykin 40:59.28 and another Spanish athlete Pablo Oliva 41:00.73 took the silver and bronze medals.
The field was made up of 28 walkers from 16 countries – 11 received a red card (including Callum), six got two cards and three of them three. With the leading 15 athletes bettering 43 minutes competition was keen to which four national records and 16 personal best’s bears testimony. Both events because of the early starts were held in cool conditions
Video of Callum's race below (cut to 43 minute mark)