Jake Wightman’s 1500m win is a surreal moment

In the topmost row of section 222 of Hayward Field, Jeff Wightman looked away from the men’s 1500m medal ceremony, which took place in the two tiers of stands below him, and let his gaze drift towards the Cobourg hills. He blinked twice, took a deep breath, and after a pause, his voice carried through the stadium’s loudspeakers.

Wightman, the stadium commentator whose voice has been the soundtrack to track and field events during the London and Tokyo Olympics and the World Championships in Athletics over the past decade, knew all he had to do was read the script ahead. . it and enter the name of the winner.

His son.

“It’s just another name,” he said. “I just didn’t want to ruin his life by doing something wobbly.”

On the fifth day of the World Championships in Athletics, when expectations were met and the favorites pushed back their place in the medal table, there was no result. more stunning and surreal participants than Jake Wightman won the gold medal in the 1500 meters in 3 minutes 29.23 seconds, a victory that the British runner secured by riding Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen go from 200 meters.

“I didn’t hear it at all after I crossed the line or finished,” Wightman said. “It was just a surreal moment, did it really happen? I tried to look for him, and he is upstairs, nosebleed, so far upstairs.

When he exploded by running to hug his mother Susan in the front row of the first turn of the circuit, his father sat on the raised stage under the stadium’s translucent roof in an attempt to do the opposite. He told himself to “remain neutral.”

“I hope this is a special moment for him,” said Jake Whiteman, “because maybe back in the history of athletics, a father called a title like this and a coach to be able to be there and eat that?”

Taking off his black headset and hugging his colleagues, Jeff Wightman called this day the best sports day of his life. Ahead only the birth of three children and the day of the wedding.

The announcement of the race was not a novelty. He commentated on his son’s runs from the age of 10 and was able to attend school races because his wife was Jake’s gym teacher.

“We just took him out to some big stages, some big crowds and some big medals,” said the father, squinting behind his glasses.

In a way, he called his son’s win privately the day before when he and his son discussed race strategy. Both knew that the path to victory required Wightman to use what he described as his only advantage against Ingebrigtsen, a supernaturally talented prodigy at just 21 years old whom Wightman had last beaten six years earlier: a quick finishing blow.

“You can run safely and fall behind in fourth, fifth or sixth place, and you will probably get a bronze medal, which you have never had before,” Wightman told his son. “But how many times in your life do you get a World Cup where you are in that form and if you just take a risk you will always regret not taking the risk when you are able to win it.”

Britain's Jake Wightman celebrates victory by taking the gold ahead of race favorite Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway.

Britain’s Jake Wightman celebrates after beating race favorite Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway in the men’s 1500m final at the World Championships.

(David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Watching this plan come to fruition on Tuesday, the father declared victory again, this time in real life, to more than 10,000 fans.

“Right across the line was the biggest relief and pinch moment I’ve ever had,” said Jake Wightman.

This was not the last disappointment of the day. Limited by a hamstring injury sustained last month, Norway’s Karsten Warholm, world record holder in the 400m hurdles, 2017, 2019 world champion and 2021 Olympic champion, was unable to face the much-anticipated American Ray Benjamin. as they each broke a world record in last year’s Olympic final.

Warholm slapped his chest and cheeks with each hand and yelled at the camera during his introduction, his calling card before the race. Benjamin was more calm, looking at the second level of the stands and lightly pounding his chest.

But when Warholm disappeared in the last 150 meters and Benjamin took the lead, Brazil’s Alison dos Santos was already too far ahead to catch up. He is the oft-forgotten third star in the distance. His bronze time in Tokyo would have broken the 29-year-old world record set by Kevin Young before it was broken by Warholm twice in a few weeks last summer, eventually dropping by almost one second.

Steps after finishing third fastest ever on Tuesday (46.29 seconds), dos Santos put his hand to his ear in front of the crowd. He heard a roar that was also for the Americans behind him, with Benjamin taking silver in 46.89 seconds and Trevor Bassitt taking bronze.

“Today I did all or nothing,” Warholm said, “and, unfortunately, nothing came of it.”

Benjamin contracted COVID in May and then hamstring tendonitis. When he was physically unable to train with USC coach Quincy Watts this spring, he said, he also struggled mentally.

“That was rough,” he said.

After reaching the finals, Benjamin told Watts of his plan to stay mentally strong, “and I will let the American public be my medicine.”

“On the stretch on my back, I dropped out of the race a bit,” Benjamin said. “And the crowd went like, ‘US, USA,’ and I just thought, okay, we have to compete, we have to fight.”

Aside from American hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin and Delilah Muhammed, who easily advanced to the 400m semi-finals, Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Maguchy received the loudest applause during an early performance when she blew a kiss at the camera while dressed in Ukrainian colors with her yellow top and blue tights. Almost five months earlier, she fell asleep on February 27th. 24 around 3:30 a.m. in her native Dnipro, in central Ukraine, only to be awakened an hour later by what she believes was the sound of artillery fire. She rustled her boyfriend and called her father.

“I say: “The war has begun, the war has begun!” she said in May.

Yaroslava Maguchykh (Ukraine) performs in the women's high jump finals at the World Championships.

Yaroslava Maguchykh (Ukraine) performs in the women’s high jump finals at the World Championships. Makhuchikh took silver in the tournament.

(Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

After spending time in the basement of the house and a three-day drive to Belgrade, the site of the World Indoor Championships, she became a world champion and something like unofficial representative of Ukrainian athletes. Since February, the country’s athletics federation has relocated more than 300 athletes; Mahuchy’s story, by virtue of her championship, may be the most famous. Wearing blue and yellow eyeliner, she swam the first four bars before missing at 6 feet 7 ½ inches, and when Australian Eleanor Patterson reached the top on her first attempt, it proved the difference between silver and gold.

The difference for Wightman was correcting the mistakes that had caused him to win his semi-final run in Tokyo the previous year, only to disappear during the Olympic final. During the winter, his training focused on the 3000 meters, believing this would increase his endurance for multi-round championship events. His mother believed the win was possible because of how easily he qualified that week.

On his winning lap, Wightman looked up and saw Steve Cram in the stadium box. The British champion in the 1500 meters at the 1983 World Championships waved his hand. Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics and 1984 Olympic champion in the same course, whom Wightman considers a hero, told the 28-year-old after the awards ceremony that it was “the best medal he could have given.”

As his father ran across the stands to the running track, finally embracing his wife, their son was a few rows up, moving from one TV interview to the next. Jeff Wightman crept up the stairs and found his son for a hug.

“It was surreal,” said Jeff Wightman, “because you think, ‘I know this guy, he looks familiar.’