AW readers’ choice British male athlete of 2022 looks back at that unforgettable moment when he stunned the world and struck 1500m gold in Eugene
Jake Wightman is not the type to get too carried away. A more down to earth world champion you could not wish to meet. Even if he were prone to the odd bout of taking himself just a little too seriously, however, the 1500m gold medallist knows he operates within a sport which has a special talent for cutting even the tallest of poppies down to size.
Exhibit A arrived only a few weeks ago. After enjoying his break from a season which had included that stupefying victory in Eugene, as well as Commonwealth bronze and 800m silver at the European Championships, his first winter hill session back with his training group delivered a metaphorical slap in the face.
“My mum was there and a passer-by had asked who we were,” says Wightman, with a rueful chuckle. “Mum told her ‘one of them won the world championships during the summer’ and so the woman came over to ask which one of us it was.
“I said I was and she said ‘oh, well done’. Then we went and did the rep and I was dead last, right at the back of everybody, so she’s either thinking that everyone else [in the group] is an Olympic champion or that I’ve really lost it in those few months!”
Thumping back to reality is all part of the process, of course, but having some precious metal from the summer’s work tucked in his pocket has rather cushioned the blow for Wightman, who is speaking to AW from a training camp at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Unlike the aftermath of the Tokyo Olympics, where he was left distraught at coming 10th in the 1500m final and attacked the winter with a grim-faced determination which would reap particularly rich rewards, this time he has the moment of his sporting life – so far – to draw upon as an energy source.
July 19, 2022 was the day of days for the Wightman household. His aforementioned mother Susan, herself a former international athlete and Jake’s first coach, was in the Hayward Field stands to watch the world 1500m final, only a matter of metres away from where her husband Geoff – Jake’s dad and current coach – was also calling the race as stadium announcer.
The couple would leave the famous arena that evening having achieved new levels of paternal pride. Their son gambled on himself and won, breaching the seemingly impregnable defences of…