Britain's Jake Wightman celebrates with his medal. Pic: Getty Images

Jake Wightman And The Welsh Link That Helped Guide Him To Become World Champion

By Rob Carbon

As his mother broke down in tears, Britain’s first gold medalist at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, 1500 metre runner Jake Wightman, at least had his father to count on to remain professional. 

As he came from nowhere to beat the reigning Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the 28-year-old Wightman was shocked and proud in equal measure. But nowhere near as proud as his parents. 

While Welsh mum Susan, his former PE teacher, was watching nervously, dad Geoff, his coach, was actually commentating on the race at the stadium. 

After he had snatched the gold medal from a stellar field that not only included Ingebrigtsen, but also Kenya’s 2019 world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, fellow Brit Josh Kerr, who was third at the Olympics in Tokyo two years ago, and Abel Kipsang, the world’s fastest man in 2022, and as Wightman lay stretched out on the track, the stadium camera panned to his dad. 

As the giant screen at Hayward Field showcased Geoff, he explained why: “I’ve got to tell you why the camera is on me. That’s my son. I coach him. And he’s the world champion,” said the former England Commonwealth Games marathon runner, who ran 2:13.17 at his best. 

 

“I’ve been doing his school sports day since he was about 11 because my wife (Susan) has been his PE teacher. So, we’ve just taken it to a slightly bigger stadia, slightly bigger crowds and slightly bigger medals. 

“I’ve been watching his races for all his life, since he started as a little kid in primary school, and to come through and win a global title is amazing.

“ I’ve been doing 1500m since before Jake came on the scene. I love to do them. So, I can’t be biased, I have to be impartial. 

“But it was surreal watching him win gold. I was thinking, ‘I know that guy. He has a familiar look.’” 

With wife Susan, one half of the famous Cardiff AAC and Wales’ Tooby twins with sister Angela, they have steered their son to the top of the world. 

Susan Tooby ran at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games for Wales over 10,000 metres and in the marathon at the 1988 Olympics Games and 1990 European Championships for Team GB. 

Twin sisters Susan (left) and Angela Tooby in athletics action, circa 1984. Pic: Getty Images.

She held the Welsh half (69:56) and full marathon (2:31.33) records for more than 30 years and quite rightly couldn’t hold back the tears as she saw her son race to golden glory and upgrade from bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and European Championships. 

Jake, twin brother of Sam, who is an actor, is Britain’s third fastest 1500 metre runner of all-time, behind Kerr and Mo Farrah, and his lifetime best of 3.29.23 in Oregon took him even further ahead of the golden trio of Cram, Coe and Ovett. 

Cram, another part of the commentary team, sent him a congratulatory message, while Lord Coe presented him with his gold medal. 

Wightman, who will compete for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games when Wales’ Jake Heyward will be one of his big rivals, stayed in close contact with the leaders as first Kipsang, who had not lost a race all season, and then Cheruiyot fell back after 700m. 

It was at that point Ingebrigtsen, the Olympic champion and the fastest man in the field, took over. 

 

But the Norwegian couldn’t get away from Wightman, who struck for home with 200m to go and hung on to take gold in 3:29.23. Ingebrigtsen was second in 3:29.27, with Spain’s Mohammad Katir in third. 

“Jake Wightman has just had the run of his life,” announced his father to the crowd. “My voice has gone.” 

Asked about his mum and dad, Jake just smiled: “Dad can be a bit of a robot on the mic sometimes – some people say robot, some say professional. 

“I hope he broke that down today. It will be interesting to watch it back. My mum was in tears, so at least someone was crying!” 

The medal ceremony had to be rushed through because it was due to take place today  on Wednesday, but British Athletics had booked Whightman a flight home obviously not thinking he would make the podium. How wrong they were.

 

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