GEMMA Bridge never expected to be pulling on a national vest this summer, but is more than ready to take on the world’s best.

The Oxford City AC race walker has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the British rankings despite only taking up the sport full-time earlier this year.

Competing in Sunday’s 20km event at the IAAF World Championships is beyond Bridge’s wildest dreams.

The 24-year-old, from Oxford, who is a former middle and long-distance runner, admits she has surprised herself.

She said: “It’s great, it’s all happened very quickly.

“In February, I was not expecting anything like this.

“I was thinking ‘I’ll give it a go’ and suddenly I got good quickly and now I’m going to London which is awesome, very cool.”

Bridge has been race walking on and off since 2012 but, after a series of injuries while running, decided to turn to the sport full-time in February.

After a string of impressive performances, she secured her place for London in June when winning the 20km event at the Race Walking Association Championships in Leeds in a personal best of 1.32.33 – the quickest British time of 2017.

Bridge first encountered the sport when watching the national championships in 2012 and a comment from the stands proved the start of a slow transition from running.

She said: “I was watching and said ‘I could do it better’, kind of obnoxiously, and one of the coaches was sat in front of me and he said ‘really, you think?’.

“So I went to training, did a race, but didn’t enjoy it, and decided to give it another go.

“It was a bit stop-start. It was only February when I started focusing on walking.”

Bridge, a PHD student at Leeds Beckett University, who finished 14th at the European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady, Czech Republic, in May, added: “I always thought it was a bit weird and it still feels very unnatural.

“I don’t go for a training session and go into it. I have to think about it all the time, but I’m hoping as I do it more it will become more like running.”

She added: “I’d been working in Reading, doing medical writing, and I’m not great at working in an office – I get fidgety.

“I was trying to find something to do and I thought ‘why not go back to university and do a PHD and I could try race walking’ – it all fell into place at the same time.”

And now she is in the Great Britain & Northern Ireland squad, the goal is simple when lining up on the Mall on Sunday afternoon.

“Because it’s the first time I have made anything like this, I’m still new to the sport. If I can feel like I can do the best I can and finish strong, I will do well.

“I’m not aiming for a medal position, but the top 30 would be lovely.

“It would be a good way to finish the season off and realistically that’s not too ridiculous considering I finished 14th in the Europeans.”