Ahead of the members vote for the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, we asked members of the SJA Academy to make their case for contenders to win sportsman, sportswoman and team of the year. JAMES MOULTRIE with the case for new middle distance star Jake Wightman.
In July, Jake Wightman out-kicked Jakob Ingebritsen in the final of the 1500 metres to take the biggest win of his career at the Athletics World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
In doing so, he cemented his place in British middle-distance running history, becoming the first Brit to win the 1500 metre world title since Steve Cram in 1983.
Wightman, 28, pulled off one of the upsets of the championships as he overtook Norwegian superstar Ingebritsen in the final 200 metres and never relinquished his position at the front.
He finished in a world-leading time, and personal best, of 3:29.23.
Wightman told BBC Sport: “It probably won’t sink in until I’ve retired. It’s mad.
“I just got a whiff of it on the last lap – I knew if I was there with 200 to go, I was going to do everything I could to put myself in a position to win it.
“I was just running for my life down the home straight.”
Cram was calling the race on the BBC and Wightman was presented his gold medal by two-time Olympic 1500m champion Lord Sebastien Coe.
Yet Cram was not the most memorable commentator that night.
Wightman’s father, Geoff, was a stadium announcer, euphorically calling his son home down the final straight with the iconic lines: “I have got to tell you why the camera is on me. That’s my son. I coach him. And he’s the world champion.”
Both his parents were long-distance runners: Geoff represented England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon and his mother, Susan Tooby, came 12th in 1988 Olympic marathon in Seoul.
Both were in the stadium to witness their son make history and take Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s only gold of the championships.
In a race containing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic podium in Ingebritsen, Timothy Cheruiyot and British compatriot Josh Kerr, the Scotsman wasn’t even the favourite from his nation, let alone the entire field.
Having been disappointed with 10th at that Olympics, Wightman’s previous best results were a European junior gold medal in 2013 and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships both in 2018.
Although unable to match his triumph from the Worlds with a Commonwealth bronze medal in the 1500m and a silver medal in the European 800m, Wightman bounced back with a personal best in the 800m at the Brussels Diamond League in September to cap off his best season to date.
Wightman will have the chance to defend his title next year in Budapest with the longer goal of Paris 2024 also in his sights.
Discussing Wightman’s meteoric rise and potential, Lord Coe said: “It’s no time at all.
“If he can log that he could technically end up as the most successful British middle-distance runner we have ever had.”