By Mitch Phillips
EUGENE, Ore. (Reuters) -Briton Jake Wightman took a superb world championship 1,500m gold as he outkicked Olympic champion and hot favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen on the final lap on Tuesday, with his proud father Geoff calling him home as the stadium announcer.
Wightman’s father and coach, used to the combination by now but never previously seeing such a victory, somehow kept his emotion in check as he called his son home, though he did allow himself a moment to announce to the Hayward Field fans: “That’s my son and he’s world champion”.
On an emotional night all-round, Wightman celebrated the first World Championship gold in the event for former middle-distance powerhouse Britain since Steve Cram – also in the stadium commentating for the BBC – in the first event in 1983. He then received his gold medal from double Olympic 1,500m champion and World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.
“I have given up so much to get to this point and it makes everything worth it,” he said.
“I never gave up in my confidence to get to this point. I am so glad that I have been able to do what I have dreamed of since I was a kid.”
Wightman’s winning time of 3 minutes, 29.23 was the fastest in the world this year and underlined his pedigree. Ingebrigtsen took silver, with Spain’s Mohamed Katir finishing strongly for bronze just ahead of compatriot Mario Garcia.
“Today the stars just aligned,” said Wightman.
Kenyan duo Timothy Cheruiyot and Abel Kipsang set the early pace but when Ingebrigtsen eased to the front with two laps to go there looked to be only one winner.
Wightman, however, is a notable tactical racer and was not about to sit back and watch the show. He stayed tight on Ingebrigtsen’s shoulder and then did what almost nobody does – went alongside the Norwegian on the back straight of the final lap and then got his shoulder in front with 200m to go.
“I just felt so good that I knew there was a shot at it. All I wanted to do was challenge him and whether that comes away with a medal, or just make some impact on the race and you know, take the risk to try and win it,” he told reporters.
“It probably won’t sink in until I have retired I don’t think.”
With Ingebrigtsen unable to respond, Wightman then drove on to cross the line looking utterly shocked, nearly a year after he finished a disappointing 10th at the Tokyo Games.
“It’s mad. I had such a disappointing year in Tokyo last year. I don’t think people realise how crushing it was to go in with such high expectations and come away hoping for a medal but end up tenth,” he said.
“I had to take the pressure off and the only thing that could happen was that it was a better run than last year.”
Ingebrigtsen said: “I felt good but I made some mistakes and didn’t keep up in the last 200. I’m owning it, but somewhat disappointed. It’s an honour to get a medal of course and I’m very happy for Jake.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Schmollinger)