In the top row of Section 222 of Hayward Field, Geoff Wightman looked away from the men’s 1,500-meter medal ceremony taking place on the two-story pole track below him and let his gaze wander into the Coburg Hills. He closed his eyes twice, took a deep breath and, after a pause, his voice came through the stadium’s public address speakers.
Wightman, a stadium commentator whose voice has been the voice for track and field events during the past decade during the London and Tokyo Olympics and the world championships, knew what he needed to do was read the script ahead. fill in his and the winner’s name.
“It’s just another name,” he said. “I just didn’t want to mess it up for him by doing something bold.”
On the fifth day of the world track and field championships, as expectations were defied and the favorites put a place on the medal column, no result was more surprising to the participants than Jake Wightman’s 1,500m gold medal in 3 minutes, 29.23 and it was more surreal. seconds, sealing a victory that saw the British sprinter overtake Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the 200m.
“After I crossed the line or finished, I never heard back,” Wightman said. “It was just a surreal moment, did this really happen? I was trying to look for him and he was running through his nose, until now.”
As he burst out, running to hug his mother, Susan, in the front row of the first track, his father sat on a high stage under the transparent roof of the stadium, trying to do the opposite. He told himself to “remain neutral.”
“I hope it’s a special moment for him,” Jake Wightman said, “because no one else in the history of athletics has ever had their father call him a title like that — and a coach, too, who can be there. and does she have it?”
After he removed a black headband and hugged his colleagues, Geoff Wightman called it the best sporting day of his life. Only the birth of his three children and his wedding day were ahead.
The innovation did not announce the competition. He commented on his son’s running since he was 10, able to participate in school races because his wife was Jake’s physical education teacher.
“We took it to a slightly bigger stadium and slightly bigger crowds and slightly bigger medals,” the father said, his eyes squinting behind his glasses.
In some ways, he had specifically mentioned his son’s victory the day before, when he and his son discussed race strategy. Both knew the road to victory required Wightman to use what he called his only advantage over Ingebrigtsen, a distance prodigy just 21 years old whom Wightman last beat six years ago: a quick backhand.
“You can run safely and finish fourth, fifth or sixth and you’ll probably get a bronze medal, and you’ve never seen that before,” Wightman told his son. “But how many times in your life do you get a world championship that you’re in, and if you just take a risk, you’ll always regret not taking a risk when you could have won it.”
Watching that plan unfold on Tuesday, the father claimed victory again, this time in real life, to more than 10,000 viewers.
“Just being on the line was the greatest relief and moment I’ve ever seen,” Jake Wightman said.
That was not the last disappointment of the day. Karsten Warholm, who was limited by a hamstring injury last month, the Norwegian world record holder in the 400m hurdles and world champion in 2017, 2019 and Olympic champion in 2021, could not make a duel with American Rai Benjamin. hotly anticipated as each broke the world record in last year’s Olympic final.
Warholm pounded his chest and cheeks with each hand during his introductions and screamed into a camera, a signature pre-race routine. Benjamin calmed down, looked down at the second level of the resort and gently patted his chest.
But when Warholm faded in the final 150 meters and Benjamin surged, Brazilian Alison dos Santos was already too far ahead to catch. It is the third star that has been forgotten in the distance. His bronze time in Tokyo would have reduced the 29-year-old world record set by Kevin Young, before it was broken twice in as many weeks last summer by Warholm, by about a second in the end.
Dos Santos gave the crowd a hand to his ear after completing the course in the third-fastest time of 46.29 seconds on Tuesday. He heard the cheers, which were also for the Americans behind him, with Benjamin taking silver in 46.89 seconds and Trevor Bassitt winning bronze.
“Today I went all or nothing,” Warholm said, “and unfortunately, it was nothing.”
Benjamin had come down with COVID in May and then developed tendinitis in the hamstring. While he was physically unable to train for stretches with USC coach Quincy Watts this spring, he also struggled mentally, he said.
“It was tough,” he said.
Entering the final, Benjamin told Watts of his plan to stay mentally strong “and I’m going to let the US crowd be my medicine.”
“My support kind of distanced me from the competition,” Benjamin said. “And the crowd was going, ‘USA, USA,’ and I’m like, OK, we’ve got to compete, we’ve got to fight.”
In addition to American hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad, who easily qualified for the 400m semifinals, Ukrainian sprinter Yaroslava Mahuchikh received loud applause during the opening introductions when she blew a kiss to a camera while carrying the Ukrainian colors with her ball. the one wearing yellow. blue tights About five months ago, on February 24, he fell asleep at around 3:30 a.m. in his hometown of Dnipro, in central Ukraine, only to wake up an hour later to the sound of shelling. She scratched her boyfriend and called her father.
In May, he said, “I say, ‘The war has begun, the war has begun!’
After a stint in a basement and a three-day car ride to Belgrade, site of the world indoor championships, she emerged as world champion and something of an unofficial spokesperson for Ukrainian athletes. More than 300 sports and sports athletes have been transferred by the country’s sports federation since February; Mahuchikh’s story, in terms of her championship, is perhaps the best known. Dressed in blue and yellow, she sailed on her first four bars before missing by 6 feet, 7 ½ inches, and when Australia’s Eleanor Patterson soared on her first attempt, that gap between proved silver and gold.
The distinction for Wightman was to rectify the mistakes that saw him win his semi-final heat in Tokyo last year, only to miss out on the Olympic final. During the winter, his training was on 3,000 meters, believing that it would build his endurance for the championship races with many rounds. His mother believed that a victory was possible because he had easily managed this week.
In his victory lap, Wightman looked up and saw Steve Cram in a stadium box. The British 1,500m champion swam at the 1983 world championships. Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president and 1984 Olympic champion over the same distance, and whom Wightman considers a hero, told the 28-year-old after the medal ceremony that it was “the best medal he could have given.”
As his father walked through the aisles, finally hugging his wife, their son was a few rows up, moving from one TV interview to the next. Geoff Wightman sneaked up a flight of stairs and found his son for a hug.
“It was surreal watching,” Geoff Wightman said, “because you think, ‘I know that guy, he has a familiar look.’