After his British record in Dudince, Dominic King hopes he has done enough to earn a ticket to Tokyo
Dominic King says it was his life goal to break Chris Maddocks’ long-standing British record for 50km race walk and he hopes his performance will win him a spot in the British Olympic team despite his time being outside the qualifying standard for Tokyo.
The 37-year-old from Colchester clocked 3:51:13 in the Dudince 50km in Slovakia last Saturday (March 20) to take 24 seconds off a national record that Maddocks has held since 1990. It missed the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:50:00 but he still hopes he will get an invitation from World Athletics via its rankings system.
“I’ve done everything possible to demonstrate that I should be seriously considered to be selected,” says King, who is aiming for his third Olympics after having raced in London and Rio.
“I think it was the only GB Olympic trial to be held overseas and I won it in a new British record and took more than four-and-a-half minutes off my personal best. I think a lot of countries because of the pandemic will select athletes who have been invited by World Athletics (due to their position on the world rankings) and I’m very hopeful that British Athletics will take everything into consideration and be selecting athletes who are invited, particularly athletes who have broken British records and won the official trial.”
He adds: “There have been no other chances recently to do a 50km and this was my one chance to qualify. I remain hopeful and it would be really nice to end my 50km career in Tokyo and qualify for a third Olympics. And when you’re going into hot humid place like Japan, it’s not about fast times but tactical preparation.”
On breaking Maddocks’ mark, he says: “It’s an amazing record and it has been a life goal of mine to say I’m the British record-holder. It’s been such a hard record to break and has stood the test of time and has lasted almost 31 years. Chris should be immensely proud of holding that record for so long.”
Remarkably, King was mainly aiming for Maddocks’ UK M35 record of 3:53:13 but instead ended up breaking his outright national record of 3:51:37.
King is the epitome of an athlete who has finally been rewarded in the twilight of his career after years of hard work. The veteran race walker works for the University of Essex’s student union and has a busy family life with a 12-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. In training he covers around 110-120km per week – often with two sessions per day – and rarely has the luxury of warm-weather training or altitude camps.
“Across my 20-plus years of competing for Great Britain I’ve probably walked around the globe several times and done thousands of hours,” he says, on life as an athlete who competes in the longest and most gruelling of all Olympic events.
Indeed, he believes the pandemic has “levelled the playing field” between funded and non-funded athletes. “I’ve been fortunate enough to still be able to work at home but I’ve been partially furloughed for last year and been on reduced hours, which has given me extra time and an opportunity to recover more.
“I’ve not increased any mileage but I’ve been a bit smarter and it highlights that you don’t necessarily need to go abroad to train. And a lot of it is being confident about doing the right training and doing it in a race.”
On his Dudince performance, he says: “I went there with the grit between my teeth and even surprised myself. Probably no one would have put me down as being in contention for breaking that record. I’ve been around for ages but I’ve now got belief in myself and the moral of the story in that 50km is that it’s not how you start but how you finish it.”
King is one of the surprise success stories of 2021 so far and he says: “There are a few people who have written me off a few years ago and it’s nice to show that, irrespective of what others think, if you have the will and determination and are prepared to put in the hard work in training then you can achieve.
“You don’t need to be on full time athlete on funding either. You can be a family man and still do these kind of times.”
King’s fellow Brit, Cameron Corbishley, had led the race in Dudince with 10km to go but hit The Wall disastrously and faded out of contention as King stormed past and into the record books.
“I like analysing my stats and it’s the first race where I did a negative split – by one second 1:55:37 and 1:55:36 so in that respect it was almost like a perfect race for me,” King says.
“All the time I was trying to be controlled and not too excited early on. In the last 3km my legs felt I was walking through treacle but I realised I was on for a British record.
“For a change I used my head rather than my heart and I certainly did not want to risk getting a five -minute pit penalty which would have really jeopardised my potential for Tokyo.”
On his team-mate, King adds: “It’s a shame for Cameron because he suffered so much in the latter stages but he possibly went a little too quick in the middle. I think he did a 4:14 kilometre split at one stage but he’ll learn from this. On one hand it’s courageous but with a bit more experience of the event he’ll realise it’s better to save things for the last 15km.”
Corbishley clocked 3:54:15 while King’s twin brother, Daniel, finished in 4:06:09 – his fastest time for 13 years despite having a five-minute penalty zone visit.
“I feel really proud for him,” says Dominic. “He persevered despite getting two warnings early on. He got his fastest time for 13 years. He’s just as fit as me and is definitely a sub-four-hour walker even if he hasn’t got that time on paper.”
He adds: “None of my success would be possible if I didn’t have him as my training partner. I would have quit a long time ago because it’s such a tough sport and I wouldn’t have made one Olympics.”
King is set to race again in the Olympic trials 20km on Friday in Kew Gardens. He is not expecting to do well after Saturday’s exertions but he want to support the big event. Beyond that, he feels now he has broken the British record the ‘barrier is broken’ and that sub-3:50 for 50km is a realistic target.
He is also waiting to see if the 50km is definitely scrapped in favour of 30km or even 35km at major championships. “Race walking is such a big part of my life,” he says. “I wouldn’t step away from athletics. I might look at challenges such as tackling 100 miles or possibly do more running.”
Other than that, he has to get around to updating his social media at some stage. Unlike higher profile athletes who often update social media within seconds of a training session let alone breaking a British record, King had not posted anything several days after his British record-breaking feat.
“It’s not really sunk in yet and to be honest I’ve not really had time. I guess I’ve got no sponsors to please. I’ll definitely send something out but want to think about what I might say first I also have to desperately recover my legs so I can support the 20km trial on Friday.
“I’m also pretty modest and I think it’s a very British thing.”