TOM Gale can walk around Trowbridge with a spring in his step after exceeding expectations at the World Junior Championships in Poland last week.

The 17-year-old high jumper did everything the Great Britain management asked of him in Bydgoszcz as he not only made the final but also finished in the top 10 as he improved his personal best to 2.18m.

That leap also propelled him to top spot in the UK U20 men’s rankings, ahead of rival Rory Dwyer who was also in Poland but failed to make the final.

John of Gaunt School pupil Gale finished ninth overall and, after clearing 2.05m, 2.10m and 2.14m with ease, landed his new personal best at the third attempt.

“When I cleared 2.18m that was the first thing that came into my mind, that I was now number one in the UK,” said Gale.

“I felt so good and cleared the bar by a considerable amount. I really felt I should have gone on to jump 2.21m but it wasn’t to be.

“I definitely felt I had the strength to do it (2.21m), I cleared my 2.18 with such a distance I felt confident I was going to do it but it just didn’t happen on the day.

“I would probably say it was more of a learning experience, it was about finding different ways to cope in competition.

“For me it was just making sure that my technique was good rather than just getting over the bar, but I thought it was absolutely amazing. I had an incredible time out there.

“Reaching the final wasn’t an expectation, just a goal my coach (Denis Doyle) had set, but it was something I had thought about myself.

“But it has to be something of which I can be very proud. I was up against guys two years older than me – the winner was 19 – and yet I held my own against them.

“I was very happy with how I handled myself out there and I think I did pretty well for my age.

“Hopefully I can come back from it and whilst I was happy with a ninth place as the youngest guy in the competition, I can top it.’’ A whirlwind year for Gale has seen him catapulted from club high jumper with Team Bath AC to international class and potential future GB Olympian and his sights are now set on a top three finish in the European Youth Championships next year.

His astonishing rise has also seen him finish runner-up in the England U20 Championships, ninth in the Olympic trials and earn his first international start since the turn of the year and he takes part in the England Athletics Senior Championships in Bedford this weekend.

“There was a 20-minute period on the bus where it all hit me and I had to sit there in silence thinking ‘this is everything I’ve worked for’ to be here,’’ he added.

“It just shows that I can even in competitions where people are better than me I can more than hold my own. For me go to such a big competition and hold my own for once with the best in the world is something I’m proud of.”