World champion Jake Wightman explains why he had to grind out a bronze at Commonwealth Games
Edinburgh’s Jake Wightman had to go from the top of the world to ‘vulnerable’ inside two weeks to grind out Commonwealth bronze in Birmingham.
Many tried to dissuade Wightman putting body and brain through another 1500m and laying his world champion credentials on the line in front of a home crowd.
The gamble didn’t bring gold but gutsy bronze in a miracle metric mile that saw Australia’s Ollie Hoare take gold in a Games record time of 3:30.12 and seven of the field of 12 ran personal bests.
“I didn’t want to do the 1500 because I just couldn’t face it again,” said Wightman. “I went from that to being ready to do it and wanting to win it.
“I’d hate to have been running the 800 or not running at all and watch that race thinking I’d loved to have been in it for a shot of winning it, so I put it on the line.
“In that race, I put myself in a position where I could have won it or ended up with nothing. I could easily have come away with nothing.
“I hope I don’t get shot down too much for not having won it being a world champion, but I don’t think people really realise how much of a high that was and having to reset.”
The race marked the fall of Filbert Bayi’s vaunted 48-year Games record with the top six finishers all going under the 3:32.16 mark.
The Tanzanian, now 69 years of age, presented the medals to Hoare, Wightman and Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot who took silver.
Kenya’s Abel Kipsang took the field out at a punishing pace of 54.87 for the first 400m, nearly a second faster for the opening lap than the Eugene final.
He was joined at the front by 2019 world champion Cheruiyot with Wightman and Hoare hanging on for dear life.
Welshman Jake Heyward, a metre behind Wightman at the bell, said: “I was a little bit surprised that Jake held me off at the bell. I thought he’d be more patient.”
Wightman found his sweet spot on the back straight but kicked earlier than he did at the Worlds and was then reeled in by Cheruiyot and Hoare with 30m to go, with the Australian taking it at the line.
On the move Wightman said: “It was just a bit instinctive. I wanted to get to the bend and lead again but I knew this time the whole way round I wasn’t quite as fresh, didn’t have the same pop as before.
“I was hanging on this time on the home straight rather than feeling strong and that I wouldn’t be beaten. I felt vulnerable there. But I wouldn’t have changed it and I gave myself a chance.”
All this pressure is so very new on Wightman, who matched his performance from Gold Coast 2018 where he also won 1500m bronze.
In the short time since returning from the Worlds he has already consulted a few of those who have felt the glare of the spotlight, particularly 2007 and 2013 world champion Christine Ohuruogu.
He said: “Christine and I used the same sports psychologist but there aren’t too many people who have been in this situation.
“It’s a great position to be in, for people to be looking at you because you’ve done something good, but you feel the pressure and that’s why it was a lot more stressful for me.
“I didn’t feel like I could relax as much. You’re the hunted rather than the hunter and people are scared of you.”
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