The double British champion finished fourth, fifth and sixth in his three races in Delhi but laid those memories to rest with a memorable victory in the 100m backstroke final.
I knew I had it in me but needed to produce it when it mattered, which is usually a huge downfall of mine
Despite the presence of England team-mate and defending champion Liam Tancock and top Australia hope Mitch Larkin, Walker-Hebborn kept his nerve when the pressure was on – something that has previously troubled his career.
He’d showed glimpses of form by smashing the Games record in the previous days heats, only the slow up in the semi-finals.
But a day’s rest paid off as he clocked 53.12 secs as Larkin took silver and Tancock completed the podium.
“I’m a little bit emotional and speechless really,” Walker-Hebborn said.
“I knew I had it in me but needed to produce it when it mattered, which is usually a huge downfall of mine. Too often in the past I’ve been quick at the wrong times and when the pressure is on I’ve just not delivered.
“The sense of relief I feel is huge, to wear a medal and be a champion that’s what it’s all about, all the hard work and all the disappointments fade away when you stand on the top of that podium.”
Earlier, Ben Proud ended England’s wait for their first gold medal in the Glasgow 2014 pool when he triumphed in the 50m butterfly final.
Proud was taking on one-time Olympic and former world champion Roland Schoeman and Olympic 200m champion Chad le Clos but a new Commonwealth Games record time of 22.93 earned him victory.
“I don’t really know what to say,” he said. “I’m beyond excited. Tears almost came to my eyes.”
Scotland’s Daniel Wallace won the 400m individual medley but his compatriot Michael Jamieson, the Olympic silver medallist, failed to qualify for the final of the 100m breaststroke.
“It was a dogfight to the finish but I’m really happy,” said Wallace, after edging out Australia’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes by 0.84 secs.
“It’s not every day you get to race and win in front of your home crowd. I watched Braveheart just last week to get ready for this. It is such a Scottish thing and it warms my heart.”
“I just yelled at the top of my lungs for freedom because being here, the home crowd has really brought out the Braveheart and Scot inside of me and I just soaked up the moment.”
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