Great Britain are already enjoying their most successful Games in the pool since the 1908 Olympics, with three golds and a silver so far, and there were hopes that Wilby could add to that haul.
The 27-year-old qualified second-fastest for this morning’s 200m breaststroke final after a superb swim in yesterday’s semi, but could only finish sixth as Australia’s Izaac Stubbelty-Cook took gold after reeling in Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga, who had reached halfway more than two seconds inside world-record pace.
“I am disappointed,” Wilby said. “It was a pretty strong race, physically and mentally. It is what it is.
“Unfortunately, those guys had a really good race and they put in a good show. They deserve the results they got. I’m just really disappointed that I wasn’t able to be up there with them and challenging for those medals.”
Wilby took silver behind Adam Peaty over 100m at the 2019 World Championships, and was part of the squad which won gold in the men’s 4x100m mixed medley at the same event, though he did not swim in the final as Peaty returned to the quartet after being rested in qualifying.
During the medal ceremony, Wilby was famously shown in the crowd wearing a t-shirt reading: ‘Mum, I swam the heat!’, and was emotional as he talked of her influence here.
“My mum’s been putting in such a shift for me over the last 27 years and that’s probably been the main disappointment, which is I know I’ve made her proud but I haven’t quite won the medal I would liked to have won for her,” Wilby said.
“She’s been working as a nurse, giving out vaccines recently, to an extent which makes me - if you can bleep this out - so f*****g proud of her and for what’s she done for me and my brother over the last quite a few years. I’m really, really happy with what she’s done. She’s the role model in all this, I hope she enjoyed watching that.”
Despite his disappointment, Wilby vowed to play his part in continuing Team GB’s medal rush after seeing teammates Duncan Scott and Luke Greenbank qualify second-fastest for their individual finals on Thursday morning.
Scott, who has already won gold in the 4x200m relay and silver in the individual event, will bid for a third medal in tomorrow’s 200m individual medley, while Greenbank will look to convert his World Championship bronze into gold on the 200m backstroke.
“I am a big believer in it being a team sport and that means my attitude and mannerisms affect other people – staff and swimmers,” Wilby added.
“There are people I am really close to and they have amazing opportunities coming up. I don’t want to be the 0.01 per cent that drains them. I take as much pride in my own swimming as I do in contributing that 0.01 per cent to anyone else’s journey. If I can be there in any way that supports someone else, that’s just as meaningful for me.
“I am gutted to individually leave the Olympics with ‘nothing to show for it’, as they might say, no medal, but there are still more medals to be won in the team. I can’t switch off and no one else is going to switch off. That’s the way we keep pushing in this family that we’ve got going.”