By Mitch Phillips
EUGENE, Ore. (Reuters) – Beating the Olympic champion to win a World Championship gold medal is a feeling few athletes get to experience but Jake Wightman is unique in doing it with his dad commentating on the race, live in the stadium.
Father Geoff, also Jake’s coach, has been a fixture in athletics stadiums for decades and is long used to calling his son’s races and never reveals the familial connection.
At the end of Tuesday’s 1,500-metre final though, even the tough old professional allowed himself a brief moment when he announced to the Hayward Field fans: “That’s my son and he’s world champion”, before quickly moving on to the last round of the men’s discus.
“I hope that’s the highlight of his announcing career, though he’ll probably say it was Mo Farah in the 2012 Olympics,” the younger Wightman told Reuters after his brilliant, tactical victory over Norwegian favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
“He’s called so many of my bad races so I think he probably needs to celebrate this one now. It’s pretty cool to have your dad calling the races and it’s probably unique in any sport.”
There were lovely scenes on the track at the end of the night with Wightman and both his parents hugging and posing for pictures with the gold medal, which has been a long time coming for the 28-year-old who is anything but an overnight sensation.
“It’s nice to reflect on the work he’s done to get me to this place because it might never happen again as the sport moves on fast,” he said. “So today, tomorrow, this next week is a real good chance for me and him to reflect on it all.”
Wightman said he still felt the whole thing was surreal two hours after the victory, having felt all the way down the home straight that somebody would catch him.
Normally the athletes have a big screen ahead and can see what is going on behind them but it is at the other end at Hayward Field and Wightman looked stunned that Ingebrigtsen had not hauled him in.
“It was and still is just disbelief and the moment for it to sink in hasn’t occurred yet,” he said. “I can’t wait to see my phone when I can speak to friends, family and all the people, so many people, who have helped me over the years to get to here.
“To be a world champion is beyond words and whatever happens the rest of my career, I’m that.
“Hopefully too it might inspire a lot of kids that didn’t really have the perfect development. I was a tiny little kid that wasn’t amazing when I was really young but I’ve always had that belief that I could do something in this sport.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Schmollinger)