After being hampered by illness for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Wilby looked to be returning to his best as claimed silver and bronze at the British Championships back in April.
But after waiting patiently until yesterday for his debut at the worlds, his preparations were dealt a blow with a number of mishaps immediately before the race, including nearly missing his call, leaving him on the back foot.
The impact was obvious in the pool as the 23-year-old could only post 2:11.51 in his heats – over a second and a half slower than his personal best – and he missed out on a place in the evening’s semi-finals as a result.
“It’s my first World Championships, I got a little nervous as you might expect,” said a clearly emotional Wilby.
“I was up for the race, but I had a few mishaps before on the way down to the pool.
“I had a couple of suit rips, I was missing my accreditation for a time and I almost missed the call room. I just think psychologically I let that get to me. It’s not just a physical game, it’s also a big mental game.
“In that respect I let it get the better of me. The build-up to this has been very good. I’m a bit numb thinking about the time to be honest.”
His personal best stands at 2:10.01, set back at the British trials in April, and a repeat of that would have been enough to qualify ninth fastest.
Wilby – who won gold as part of the 4x100m medley relay at the 2014 Commonwealth Games – knows he has to bounce back quickly.
“I’ve had a lot of so-called learning experiences now, that’s the only thing that worries me,” he added.
“It’s the ones who can push through that and keep going that still make it. I’ll be back.
“I talked to my coach quite a bit and we were saying that 2:10 barrier is something I’ve been on for ages.
“It definitely should have been broken last year, I had a really bad year with illness.
“Going into this year it was looking good, but like I said, the mental part of it got to me.”
Great Britain missed out on a podium place on day five in Budapest. Max Litchfield was fourth in the 200m individual medley, Duncan Scott fifth in the 100m freestyle and Georgia Davies eighth in the 50m backstroke as Britain failed to add to their tally of three gold medals. Five-time world champion Adam Peaty was taking the first of three days off before he returns for the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Sunday’s final day. Ross Murdoch will hope to add to Britain’s medal tally after qualifying third fastest for tonight’s 200m breaststroke final.
You can help the next generation of young British swimmers by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds OBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek.