As he threw himself into the mix against a decorated field, Jake Wightman of Britain did not want to leave the men’s 1,500 meters behind with a morsel of regret. He was too familiar with that feeling, and he was not about to let it happen again.
So, with 200 meters remaining, Wightman swung onto the right shoulder of Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, the reigning Olympic champion, and moved past him, setting the stage for a frantic sprint to finish at Hayward Field. After Wightman crossed the line in first, he grabbed his head in disbelief.
“How often to you get to be world champion?” he asked. “It’s not sunk in yet.”
Wightman of Britain out sprinted 1,500 meter Olympic gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the final 200 meters of the race.Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Wightman, 28, who won in 3 minutes 29.23 seconds, had arrived for the championships in possession of the second-fastest time in the world this season, but he was an underdog against the likes of Ingebrigtsen, the reigning Olympic champion, and Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya, who had hoped to defend his world title.
Ingebrigtsen, 21, hung on for the silver medal, while Mohamed Katir of Spain took the bronze. Cheruiyot faded to a sixth-place finish.
Ingebrigtsen, who will now turn his attention to the 5,000 meters, with qualifying heats beginning on Thursday, expressed frustration with his tactics, saying he wished he had pushed the pace with 500 meters to go.
“That’s the mistake I made,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Because if I had kept the pace a little bit faster from that point, nobody would’ve challenged me on the outside.”
He added: “Of course, I’m very disappointed, mostly because I’m better than silver. So I’m embarrassed being this good but also this bad.”
For Wightman, the race offered some redemption. At the Tokyo Olympics last summer, he placed 10th in the 1,500-meter final — a result that haunted him for months.
“I didn’t give a true account of how I wanted to run and how I believed I could run,” he said.
In Eugene, he sought to conserve more energy in the two qualifying rounds so that he had more to give in the final. Once there, he desperately wanted to be in position to strike with a half-lap left.
“And I just thought, like, screw this, I’m going to give it a go,” he said. “And if I had ended up finishing fourth or whatever, at least I gave it a go to try to win it.”
For Wightman, it was a family affair. His father, Geoff, was calling the race as the stadium announcer.
“Jake Wightman has just run the race of his life,” Geoff told the crowd. “My voice is gone.”
About 30 seconds later, Geoff appeared on one of the stadium’s video boards.
“I’ve got to tell you why the camera is on me,” he said. “That’s my son. I coach him. And he’s the world champion.”
Jake Wightman said he was hardly surprised that his father had kept his cool.
“He can be a little bit of a robot sometimes on the mic,” he said, deadpan. “When someone’s put in as much effort as my dad has, I hope he can equally share this.”
Wightman received his gold medal from Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the event for Britain and the president of track and field’s world governing body. Coe gave him an enthusiastic hug.
Wightman thought back to all the sacrifices he had made for the sake of his sport — all the social opportunities he had passed up, all the fun he could have had with friends in his early 20s.
“I think when I’m retired and I’m fat and I’m enjoying life a little bit, I can look back on this and feel very proud that I did everything I could to get to this point,” he said, “and it’s all worth it.”