BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
EUGENE, OREGON - If ever a stadium announcer had a legitimate cause for jumping out of his seat, and going absolutely blooming bonkers, it was Geoff Wightman on Tuesday evening at Hayward Field.
"MY SON IS THE WORLD CHAMPION!" he told the Hayward crowd, who took in the stunningly superb upset win of his son, Jake, in the final of the classic men's 1500-meter race at the18th World Championships of Track and Field, with as much astounding amazement as he did.
Call it an upset of all upsets. Call it a whole lot more. The man making the call from his perch at Hayward couldn't believe what he was seeing. And neither could most of the Hayward audience.
Virtually all the sport's experts had pre-consigned the gold medal to a Jakob - i.e., Ingebrigtsen of Norway, the reigning Olympic champion, the two-time European champion, the number one man on the World Athletics computer ranking system, the eighth fastest man in his sport's history - and all this at age 21.
Instead, it went to a Jake.
A computer didn't rule. Jake did.
In a super-fast race that rocketed this Jake (who crossed the line in 3:29:23) to the top of the yearly charts, past Jakob (who clocked a 3:29.47), bronze medalist Mohamed Katir of Spain (3:29.90), and nine others, few could believe their eyes.
Coming into this one, Wightman wasn't even the fastest of the Great Britons. That was Josh Kerr, who wound up fifth at 3:30.60. Heavens, some didn't even think he was Britain's best Jake - after all, Jake Heyward had clocked a 3:33.54 back in early June.
If Ingebrigtsen didn't rate as universal pre-race favorite, well, that honor belonged to either Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya (whose 3:28.28 2021 credentials ranked him seventh all-time), or Kenya countryman Abel Kipsang, who'd run 3:29.56 last year.
But every formchart went flying off to oblivion on this perfect Oregon evening (80 degree fahrenheit, 42 percent humidity) as these dozen great racers took on the challenge once known as "the metric mile."
Norway's Jakob took over the pace from Kenya's Kipsang just past the 700-meter mark and held onto it through the 1200 mark. And then Jake came storming through. His 14th 100-meter dash took 13.47. And his 15th might even have been even quicker - if he hadn't raised his arms in absolute incredulity those final strides as he realized he was about to live up to his father's to-be-remembered-forever call "MY SON IS THE WORLD CHAMPION!"
Spain went 3-4 with Katir getting the bronze medal and Mario García placing 4th. Back of Jake and Jakob, the field registered best marks-for-place at the World Championships in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th places,
In the Hayward stands, as Jake crossed the line and Dad Geoff reminded the crowd who that stunning winner was, Mrs. Susan Wightman, the champion's mom, did her own cheerleading.
All the Wightmans are from Horsham, she told you. And if you don't know where Horsham is, we'll let Wikipedia tell you that:
Horsham is a market town on the upper reaches of the River Arun on the fringe of the Weald in West Sussex, England. The town is 31 miles (50 km) south southwest of London, 18.5 miles northwest of Brighton and 26 miles northeast of Chichester. Nearby towns include Crawley to the northeast and Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill to the southeast."
Count on an updated Wikipedia version to tell you "Horsham is also the hometown of 2022 World 1500-meter champion Jake Wightman."
Father Geoff - himself an excellent marathoner - has also been his son's coach. And, a few minutes after the upset triumph of her son was finally sinking in, Mrs. Wightman was asked about her emotions at that point.
"We are all absolutely overjoyed," she told you, in an absolute understatement.
Not since Steve Cram won the 1500 at the first World Championships in Helsinki in 1983, has a Briton struck gold in the event at these now biennially-staged Worlds. Now, Jake Wightman joins a small club - Sydney Wooderson, Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway, Derek Ibbotson,Brian Hewson, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Seb Coe are the most illustrious - of Great Britons who'e ruled the waves of the 1500-meter world.
Coe, the man who brought the highly successful 2012 Olympic Games to London, now - in fact -runs this whole World Athletics show, being staged in this nation for the very first time.
"Jake is flying right home after this," said Mrs. Wightman. "Next for him is the Commonwealth Games (at Birmingham.)"
"He's got to be ready for that one, too."
But he must prepare for an onslaught of media adulation, as well, before the first starting gun is fired at Birmingham. The medals were duly distributed and the playing of "God Save the Queen" called the crowd to rise.
After five days, Team GB had its first gold medal of the Worlds.
Mrs. Wightman gave her Union Jack another big flutter before hearing an American journalist seated a row back of her ask for a moment of her attention.
"My wife is English and I hope she's watching this back home (on TV) in New Jersey," he said.
"And my dad was a Jacob, too. Some people called him the best lefthanded dentist in the North Bronx."
"He must have been a very good man," said Mrs. Wightman.
"Yes, he was," said the journalist, getting a little misty over all this, too.
"Yes he was."