By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, with permission to use
EUGENE (19-Jul) — Jake Wightman of Great Britain ran the race of his life tonight in the 1500m final at the 18th World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field here, upsetting Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway and running the second fastest winning time in the history of the championships: 3:29.23.
Wightman, 28, who is coached by his father Geoff who was working as one of the public address announcers in the stadium tonight, ran a brave and flawless race to become Britain’s first man to win a world 1500m title since Steve Cram won in Helsinki 39 years ago.
“It probably won’t sink in until I have retired, I don’t think,” Wightman said in disbelief. “It’s mad.”
The race gave Wightman, a Scotsman, complete redemption for his disappointing 10th place finish last summer at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I had such a disappointing year in Tokyo last year,” Wightman said. “I don’t think people realize how crushing it was to go in with such high expectations and come away hoping for a medal, but end up tenth.”
Tonight, Wightman showed the perfect blend of speed and tactics to defeat the 21 year-old Ingebrigtsen, who admitted that he made a strategic error in the middle of the race. At 700 meters, Ingebrigtsen took over the lead from Kenya’s Abel Kipsang, who had taken the race out hard in 55.5 seconds for the first 400 meters. Ingebrigtsen slowed the pace slightly because he figured that at the already-fast tempo he wouldn’t be attacked.
“Unfortunately, I looked at the clock passing 700 so that’s why I didn’t go faster because I thought nobody is going to try to attack me at this pace,” Ingebrigtsen explained to reporters. “I tried to keep an honest pace, but not push it. Looking back I should have pushed it.”
Ingebrigtsen was still the leader at the bell with Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, the defending world champion very close behind. Wightman came up to the Norwegian at 1200 meters, then launched his long sprint for home. Wightman picked up a slight gap on Ingebrigtsen on the backstretch, got the inside line on the final bend, then held his speed all the way to the tape. About 10 meters before the line, Ingebrigtsen quickly looked to his right and to his left to be sure that he had secured the silver medal knowing that the race for first was over.
“I came back a little bit but I already used too much energy to protect my position,” lamented Ingebrigtsen, who was timed in 3:29.47, the fastest-ever second place at a World Athletics Championships.
Wightman, who was fifth at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, has been running at the top level of the sport since 2018 when he finished sixth at the World Athletics Indoor Championships, third at the European Athletics Championships, and won the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile. But tonight he won his first global medal and was able to get a hug from his mother, Susan, just after he won.
“I just knew coming here I had to take the pressure off and the only thing that could happen was that it was a better run than last year,” Wightman said. “I got a whiff of it on the last lap. I knew if I was there with 200m to go I could put myself in a position to win it and I was running for my life on that home straight.”
Surprisingly, the battle for third was between two young Spaniards, Mohamed Katir and Mario Garcia Romo. Katir, 24, came into these championships with a superior personal best to Garcia Romo, 3:28.76 to 3:35.52. But Garcia Romo, the 2022 NCAA indoor mile champion for the University of Mississippi, jumped to a completely different level tonight and nearly beat his more experienced rival.
Coming out of the final bend, Cheruiyot was in third, Kipsang in fourth and Katir in fifth; Garcia Romo was back in seventh. But in the final sprint Katir got past the two Kenyans to take third in a season’s best 3:29.90, while Garcia Romo passed Olympic bronze medalist Josh Kerr of Great Britain, the two Kenyans, and nearly caught Katir. Garcia Romo dropped his personal best by more than five seconds to 3:30.20. Katir got the bronze, the first World Athletics Championships 1500m medal for Spain since 1999, and Garcia Romo got fourth.
“I’ve never felt something like this,” Katir said through a translator. “It’s amazing.”
Garcia Romo, who recently joined the U.S.-based On Athletics Club under coach Dathan Ritzenhein, was thrilled with how much progress he had made over just the last 12 months.
“A five-second personal best, fourth in the world, I could not have expected that this year,” Garcia Romo said in English. ” Seeing myself there, I know I can do a lot more. I can be a contender for the Paris Olympics and the next World Championships.”
With Katir running 3:29.90, this race was the first in World Athletics Championships history where the three medalists ran under 3:30.