The world 1500m champion, Jake Wightman, has said he was dreading racing the distance again at the Commonwealth Games but a word of advice from Sebastian Coe, and a pep talk from his mum, made him realise he had to seize the opportunity of a unique hat-trick.
Wightman will be one of the headline acts in Birmingham when the athletics programme starts on Tuesday after his shock victory in Eugene, which made global headlines as his father, Geoff, was calling the race. However, he had been thinking of switching to the 800m after experiencing a post-world title comedown until he read an article in which Coe urged him to make history by winning 1500m gold at the world championships, Commonwealth Games and European championships in the same summer.
“He was one of the validations I needed to be doing the 1500m at Commies,” Wightman said. “Initially I thought I would do the 800m. I didn’t think I could come back out and do another 1500m at champs. Not even dealing with the pressure but mentally getting up for it, the warm-up, the rounds. I dreaded having to do it again.
“It’s hard to have such a massive high and come back and feel level again. You are always going to have a drop after it. My first few days I was struggling with that. But when I read Coe’s article and spoke to a few people, the realisation was it was a good opportunity. And what would he have done in that situation? He would have tried to take as many titles as possible.”
It will be tough for Wightman to take another gold with six of the 10 fastest men in the world in 2022 competing in Birmingham. They include the Kenyan 2019 world champion, Timothy Cheruiyot, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallist, Josh Kerr, and Australia’s Stuart McSweyn, who looked close to his dangerous best in Eugene after a long recovery from Covid.
“A lot of people will have a point to prove from a disappointing worlds,” Wightman said. “And I was thinking: ‘Do I do the 800m?’ But part of me realised pretty quickly I would hate not to be on the start line on the 1500m and challenge for the win.
“This is a pretty unique circumstance to come away from the worlds and Commies win in the same year. The motivation I have is: ‘How much better can I make this summer?’ This is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I hope to do this again, win an Olympic or world gold, but I’m fortunate to have done it once and there’s no guarantee it will happen again so I need to make the most of it now.”
Another factor, Wightman said, was the influence of his mum, Susan. “When I spoke to her, she knew how many family members and friends had spent a lot of money on tickets,” he said, smiling. “So she was: ‘Surely you’ll do a 1500? There’s no reason why you want to do an 800m.’”