In the top row of Section 222 at Hayward Field, Geoff Wightman watched the men’s 1,500-meter medal ceremony, which took place two grandstand decks below him, and let his gaze drift over the hills of Cobourg. He blinked twice, took a deep breath, and after a short pause, his voice came through the public address speakers throughout the stadium.
Whiteman, a stadium commentator whose voice has become the soundtrack to track and field events over the past decade during the London and Tokyo Olympics and world track and field championships, knew he had to read the script in front of him. write his name and enter the name of the winner.
“It’s just another name,” he said. “I just didn’t want to mess it up by doing the wrong thing.”
On the fifth day of the World Championships in Athletics, despite the overlap of expectations and the favorites moving up a place on the medal stand, no result was more amazing and surreal for those who participated than Jake Whiteman’s gold medal in the 1500 meters in 3 minutes, 29.23. In seconds, the English runner sealed the victory by passing the Olympic champion Jacob Ingebrigtsen at a distance of 200 meters.
“I never heard it after I crossed the line or finished,” Whiteman said. “It was just a surreal moment, did it really happen? I’ve been trying to look him up and he’s in a nosebleed, so far.
As he blasted off, running to hug his mother Susan on the front row of the track’s first turn, his father tried to do the opposite, sitting on a high stage under the stadium’s transparent roof. “Keep it neutral,” she told herself.
“I hope it’s a special moment for him,” said Jake Wightman, “because who else in the history of athletics has had a father name such a title – and a coach can be there. And does it exist?”
After taking off his black headset and hugging his teammates, Geoff Wightman called it the best sporting day of his life. Only the birth of his three children and the wedding day were ahead.
The novelty did not announce the race. He has commented on his son’s runs since he was 10 years old, when he was able to participate in school races because his wife was Jake’s PE teacher.
“We took him to a little bigger stadium, a little bigger crowd and a little bigger medals,” said the father, squinting behind his glasses.
In a sense, he had privately called his son’s victory the day before when discussing race strategy with his son. Both knew that the road to victory required using Wightman’s only advantage against Ingebrigtsen, a preternaturally gifted distance prodigy who was just 21 years old, whom Wightman had last defeated six years earlier: A quick finishing shot.
“You can run safe and be fourth, fifth or sixth, and you’ll probably win a bronze medal, and you’ve never had it before,” Whiteman told his son. “But how many times in your life do you get a World Cup where you’re in that kind of form and if you just take a risk, when you could have won it, you’ll always regret not taking the risk. “
Seeing that plan come to fruition on Tuesday, the dad called for victory again, this time in real life for his more than 10,000 fans.
“Just getting over the line was the biggest relief and overwhelming moment I’ve ever had,” Jake Wightman said.
It was not the last sadness of the day. Norway’s Karsten Warholm, the 400-meter world record holder and world champion in 2017, 2019 and Olympic champion in 2021, was unable to compete with American Rai Benjamin due to an injury suffered last month. Each was hotly anticipated, having broken the world record in last year’s Olympic final.
Warholm beat his chest and cheeks with each hand and shouted into the camera during his presentation that it was his signature. Benjamin was quieter, looking at the second level of the stands and gently beating his chest.
But as Warholm faded in the final 150 meters and Benjamin surged, Brazil’s Alison dos Santos was already too far ahead to catch. It is the often forgotten third star in the distance. His bronze-winning time in Tokyo would have broken the 29-year-old world record set by Kevin Young last summer before it was knocked twice in as many weeks by Warholm, resulting in nearly a second being dropped.
Dos Santos cupped his ear in front of the crowd after finishing third fastest in 46.29 seconds on Tuesday. He heard the boos echoing for the Americans behind him, Benjamin taking silver in 46.89 seconds and Trevor Bassitt taking bronze.
“It was all or nothing today,” Warholm said, “and unfortunately, nothing happened.”
Benjamin contracted COVID and later hamstring tendinitis in May. When he was physically unable to work out for stretches with USC coach Quincy Watts this spring, he said he also struggled with himself mentally.
“It was rough,” he said.
Entering the final, Benjamin Watts spoke of his plan to stay mentally strong “and I’m going to let the US crowd be my medicine.”
“I found myself a little out of the race when I stretched back,” Benjamin said. “And the crowd erupted, ‘USA, USA,’ and I was just like, well, we’ve got to compete, we’ve got to fight.”
Apart from American hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad, who easily qualified for the 400m semifinals, Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchych received the loudest cheers, blowing a kiss to the camera while wearing a yellow shirt. blue tights. About five months ago, he fell asleep in his hometown of Dnieper in central Ukraine at around 3:30 a.m. on February 24, only to be awakened an hour later by gunshots. He called his lover to his father.
“I’m saying, ‘The war is on, the war is on,'” he said in May.
After some time in the basement of the house and a three-day drive to Belgrade, where the world indoor championships were held, he emerged as the world champion and unofficial spokesman for Ukrainian athletes. Since February, more than 300 athletes have been relocated by the country’s athletics federation; Mahuchih’s story may be the most famous because of his championship. Wearing blue and yellow eyeliner, she cleared the first four bars before missing at 6 feet, 7 ½ inches, and proved the difference between silver and gold when Australia’s Eleanor Patterson cleared the height on her first attempt.
For Wightman, the margin made up for the mistakes that saw him win the semi-finals in Tokyo last year, only to disappear during the Olympic final. During the winter, his training focused on 3,000 meters, which he believed would increase his endurance for championship matches with several rounds. His mother believed victory was possible because of how easily he qualified this week.
Midway through the victory lap, Whiteman looked up to see Steve Cram in the stadium box. At the 1983 World Championships, the British 1500m champion waved. Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics and the 1984 Olympic champion over the same distance, whom Wightman considers a hero, told the 28-year-old after the medal ceremony that it was “the best medal he could have given”.
Their son was a few rows high, moving from one TV interview to the next as his father ran down the stands and finally hugged his wife. Geoff Wightman sneaked up the stairs and found his son for a hug.
“It was surreal watching him,” Geoff Wightman said, “because you think, ‘I know that guy, he looks familiar’.”