Jake Wightman made history with his gold medal in the 2022 World Champs. It was the first gold medal at 1,500m by a Team GBR member since 1983 and Steve Cram! Wightman then won medals at 1,500m in Commonwealth Games and 800m at European Champs, giving him three medals in 2022. He had a most excellent summer.
Please enjoy this feature by Stuart Weir, part 1 of his two-parter on Jake Wightman. This is the 203rd article by Stuart Weir in 2022 for RunBlogRun. We thank him for traveling around the world and giving us his observations on the sport we love.
Jake Wightman, season review
2022 was a challenging season for British athletes, with three championships in one year. The World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and European Championship were chronological. That there were three in one year was a result of the post-Covid catching up process. There were decisions about priorities, strategies, and assessing what was a realistic target. Jake’s hopes for the season were “a medal in Eugene, a win in Birmingham, and a medal in Munich.”
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JUNE 25: Gold Medallist Jake Wightman of Edinburgh poses for a photo following the Men’s 1500 Metres Final during Day Two of the Muller UK Athletics Championships at Manchester Regional Arena on June 25, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)
Jake’s story of 2022 actually starts in 2021 or earlier. At the 2019 World Championships, he had finished fifth in the 1500m, which gave him realistic expectations of being a medal contender at the 2020 Olympics. Then the games were postponed by a year. In Tokyo 2021, he finished a disappointing 10th.
Doha 2019, Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr battle in the World Athletics final of the Men’s 1,500 meters, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics
What proved to be a devastating disappointment in Tokyo became a learning experience and a springboard for the coming year. Looking back to Tokyo, he now says: “In Tokyo, I was so fixated on getting a medal, and I let that become too much and, as a result, did not run my best in the final. In Tokyo, I wasn’t good enough to medal, but I should have been better than 10th. Initially, I thought that was something that wouldn’t be disappointing for me, but it was. When you have to tell people how you’ve done, 10th was not something I was proud of”.
As he began to process Tokyo and focus on 2022, he realized that it involved a change of mindset: “The one thing I wanted in Oregon was to feel I’d done everything I needed to change from Tokyo potentially for the final. And if I didn’t medal, I would be pretty content that I’d done everything possible. All I wanted to do was to give a good account of myself, so I wanted to go into Eugene thinking a medal would be great, but fourth or fifth would still be something I could be proud of”.
The Men’s 1,500m heats, heat 2, Commonwealth Games 2022
Copyright Bobby Gavin
The strange thing was that with the new mindset, he felt under less pressure in Eugene: “I guess I was so bad in Tokyo that nobody looked at me thinking this is a guy is going to win the World Championship, and that is such a great position to be in. To have no pressure on you going into it and to be able to run the way you want. It was like having a free pass in the race and a great way to go into a race, whereas there were lots of people there thinking they had to get a medal but couldn’t risk [saying it] in case they didn’t. And I think that made me more dangerous because I had a lot less fear about the outcome. I felt confident that if I did my best and put myself on the line to try to win it, that was what I wanted”.
The Medalists in the Men’s 800m, Jake Wightman, GBR, silver, Mariano Garcia, ESP, gold. Mark English, IRL, bronze, photo by Munich 2022
He added an interesting reflection: “I have said to a lot of people if I had done what I wanted to do in Tokyo, to win a medal, I wouldn’t have won the worlds the next year. Potentially I might have been able to come back and medal again”.
Jake Wightman takes the 800m at Memorial Van Damme, photo by Diamond League AG
Going back to his goal for the season of a win at the Commonwealths and medals in the other two, he elaborated: “Realistically, the way that would have been the best outcome I expected. I never thought that the one I would win would be the World Championship and still, on the back of that, medal at the other two – and come close to winning the European. I really wanted to medal at Eugene, so to win it was more than I expected”.
In part two, Jake shares his story of Oregon.