Eyes on Tokyo for award-winning coach Graham

WINNING TEAM: Mick Graham with his star pupil Callum Wilkinson, who he helped end a 52-year wait for a British world race-walk medal in July
WINNING TEAM: Mick Graham with his star pupil Callum Wilkinson, who he helped end a 52-year wait for a British world race-walk medal in July

Despite a record-breaking year which saw him crowned Suffolk’s best coach as well as honoured with a lifetime achievement award, Mick Graham says he is far from done yet.

After adding the Suffolk Sports Awards Coach of The Year trophy to his collection, the 68-year-old Haverhill-based athletics coach’s hunger to put his county on the global sporting map is undiminished — 20 years after first honing his inspirational talents.

“I am still looking for my next champion,” said Graham, who also picked up the top coach award from both last month’s St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath sports awards, as well as a lifetime achievement gong at the latter.

“I am a great believer there are champions in every school, you just need to nurture them.

“You have to have that hunger and make sacrifices though, and if the youngsters show me that I will do the same for them.”

With seven national champions already on his CV, as well as a European bronze medallist and world-record holder, Graham’s coaching achievements hit new heights over the summer when he helped Moulton-based Callum Wilkinson become the first Briton since 1964 to win a global race walking title.

And that World Under-20 Athletics Championship title in Poland provided enough inspiration to want to start mapping out a training plan to lead him all the way to the Tokyo Olympics.

“I have just been doing the training schedule with UK Athletics for the next four years,” he said.

“When you are coaching these youngsters and they win something it is great, that is your payment — it is like a pot of gold.

“When Callum crossed the finish line it was the journey of a lifetime for Britain.

“His parents’ faces leave an impression forever.”

Graham, who coaches five days a week across Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Enfield, as well as his own personal training in Haverhill, to be able to continue to demonstrate techniques, added: “They do not have to win though, as long as they are improving.”

His star pupil Wilkinson was delighted to see his hard work recognised with the series of awards.

“Mick has been with me from almost the very start and has helped me improve to levels I didn’t think were possible,” he said.

“Mick has a connection with athletes where things jut click into place.

“If you put in the effort he will give you all the time in the world and his coaching does not stop just when the session finishes, but in everything you require.”

Graham, a former two-hour marathon runner who won a 50km national title before an injury led him into coaching, said of the awards: “It does make you feel more appreciated, especially as people have voted for you and they were across sports.”