Britain’s Jake Wightman stunned the Olympic champion, the reigning world champion and himself Athletics World Championships Oregon22 On Tuesday (19th) he will run the race of his life to win the 1500m title.
The 28-year-old European and Commonwealth bronze medalist with a world-best PB of 3:29.23 left Jakob Ingebrigtsen unresponsive as he sped down the home straight, eyes fixed on the future. As the finish line neared, the Brit raised his arms before throwing his hands to his head in disbelief, followed home by Norway’s Olympic gold medalist Ingebrigtsen in 3:29.47 and Spain’s Mohamed Katir took bronze in 3:29.90.
“This is my son,” came the voice from the speaker after stadium announcer Geoff Wightman – the winner’s father and coach – announced the race, “and he’s the world champion.”
Disappointed after a 10th place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, Jake Wightman returned to work. Focused on building his strength in the winter, he returned to some cross country racing and worked the distance while refocusing on Oregon.
Achieving his goal of staying under the radar during laps, he took his place at the starting line at Hayward Field with Ingebrigtsen on his left and Katir on his right. Kenya’s Abel Kipsang, who had the fastest time of the season before the race, went straight to the front, leading ahead of Ingebrigtsen and Kenya’s defending champion Timothy Cheruiyot, followed by Wightman. Ingebrigtsen, who broke the world indoor 1500m record in February with 3:30.60, moved to the lead with two laps to go, with Kipsang and Cheruiyot on his shoulder and Wightman watching their every move.
At the bell it was Ingebrigtsen of Cheruiyot and Wightman, with Kipsang running wide on his shoulder. The Brit, who judged the race perfect, first stormed past Cheruiyot and took the lead from Ingebrigtsen with just over 200m to go.
When he left the curve, Ingebrigtsen’s expected free kick didn’t materialize. The Norwegian looked over his shoulder and looked like he knew he was beaten and settled for Silver, followed by Katir and his Spanish teammate Mario Garcia, who finished fourth with a PB of 3:30.20.
Wightman’s British compatriot Josh Kerr – the Olympic bronze medalist in the 1500m – was fifth in 3:30.60, just ahead of Cheruiyot (3:30.69) and Kipsang (3:31.21).
“I probably won’t realize that until I stop,” said Wightman, who ran the 800m in 1:44.18 and set a 3000m indoor best of 7:37.81 in February. “It’s crazy. I had such a disappointing year in Tokyo last year. I don’t think people realize how devastating it was to go into the race with such high expectations and hope for a medal, only to end up 10th.”
His parents – both former elite marathoners – were at Hayward Field to see him win, his father at the commentary microphone and his mother Susan in the stands.
“Dad can be a bit like a robot behind the mic sometimes,” smiled Wightman Jr., whose time in Oregon is the third-fastest in World Championship history. “Some say robots, others say professionals. I hope he broke that today. My mother was in tears, so someone cried.”
Looking back on the race, he added: “My strength is that when I get there with 200m to go I will always take a step because that’s how I feel most comfortable running. As soon as the opportunity to overtake presented itself, I just wanted to lead the corner. The only benefit of a good 800m PB in races like this is that you’re still there with 200m to go, which I haven’t been able to do in years past.
“Even coming down the home straight I felt strong, but Jakob is a beast and I never knew if he was going to come around.”
But he did not do it. Wightman’s final lap was 54.84, while Ingebrigtsen’s was 55.24. In Tokyo, the Norwegian ran 54.42 in the last 400 m.
“I felt good, but I couldn’t keep up with Jake in the last 200 meters,” said Ingebrigtsen. “I own it. I’m very disappointed that I didn’t win but I’m very happy for him. He’s a great runner.”
He will now focus again on the 5000m, which has heats on Thursday.
It was the 5000m Katir competed in last year’s Olympics, the 24-year-old finishing eighth, but after setting national records in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 10K last year his decision paid off , to contest the shorter race in Oregon, when he scooped bronze with his second-fastest time ever.
Right behind him was European Under-23 champion and NCAA runner-up Garcia, who runs for the University of Mississippi and set the fastest time by a collegiate athlete.
Cheruiyot was far from his best this season and although he made an impact in the early stages, he didn’t have the power at the finish and lost the medal match.
Ethiopian Samuel Tefera won the world indoor title ahead of Ingebrigtsen and Kipsang in March in Belgrade, but finished ninth in his semifinal in Oregon and missed the final.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics
|MEN’S 1500m MEDALIST|
|🥇||Jake Wightman 🇬🇧 GBR||3:29.23 WL|
|🥈||Jakob Ingebrigtsen 🇳🇴 NOR||3:29.47SB|
|🥉||Mohamed Katir 🇪🇸 ESP||3:29.90 SB|