What makes a good interview? That is open to discussion.
I did my first interview in 1982, with Don Bowden, the first American to break 4 minutes from the mile. I was anxious and Don was so kind and cordial that I relaxed and asked him some good questions.
I have interviewed Jake Wightman a few times. I enjoyed his sense of humor, and I was impressed by his ability to juggle a relationship with coach/Dad and that both parents were athletes. Jake is a talented athlete, and he is a big race guy. I enjoy watching him race.
I have enjoyed all of Stuart Weir’s interviews. In his interviews, we learn about what makes an athlete tick. He accomplishes this with the Jake Wightman interview.
Catching up with Jake Wightman
When Jake Wightman finished third in the GB Championships last summer in a slow, tactical 3:48 race, it resulted in a nervous wait. Under GB selection rules, only the first two [Neil Gourley and Josh Kerr] were guaranteed selection for the World Championships in Doha. Charlie Da’Vall Grice, who finished fourth, had the fastest PR of any of the British athletes (3:30.62), achieved in Monaco a month earlier. Wightman was chosen in the discretionary place and repaid the selectors’ faith by running a PR (3:31.87) in Doha for fifth place. (Kerr and Gourley were also in the final finishing 6th and 11th). Wightman finished 0.41 behind Marcin Lewandowski who took bronze.
Reflecting on the 2019 World Championship race, he said: “The bit that gets me is how close I was to getting a medal. You don’t really get too many opportunities to get global medals and I didn’t realise at the time that I was so close. All it needed was one quick change of pace. But I don’t think I could have asked for more out of myself. I was at my max speed. But it’s given me motivation to know I can do that again and hopefully be a couple of places higher to be in those medals. I feel like the Olympics were going to be a good opportunity to step on from that. I hope an extra year will make it an even better opportunity. Especially with having two months out injured last year, I feel like another year of running will help me going into Tokyo”.
His win at the Bislett Games in Oslo 2017 “showed me I can beat those athletes. Manangoi went on to be number one in the world. Confidence wise, knowing I can win a race of that calibre, why can’t I do in a championship? It’s tainted because my worlds in 2017 [eliminated in semis] wasn’t as good as it could have been. At the end of the day, Diamond Leagues don’t mean anything. You really need to turn up at champs”.
2020 has been eventful for Wightman. He had planned to spend the spring in the US but suddenly US decided to ban incoming flights. He recalls: “The news came out on the Saturday night that Trump was going to ban travel from the following Monday. I wasn’t due to go out there until a month later but I panicked a bit. I thought ‘the chances are I won’t be able to go’. I got my flights changed and headed over there. We [Wightman and training partner Harvey Dixon] landed with nowhere to go. So we stayed in Phoenix for a week and then got over to Florida and trained there for three weeks. And then finally, we went to a proper camp to Flagstaff”. The trip ended as it began with his flight home being cancelled!
“The worst part was after one week in”, he recalled, “was that the Olympics were cancelled. I thought we should probably just go home then. But I reckoned that if the European Championships were still happening, we should stay there training. Then the Europeans got cancelled and that left us with no real races to aim for. It felt like we were there for no reason. But I still thought it was better than home because the lockdown in the States was nowhere near as harsh. For the first few weeks, gyms were still open. I got physio. Shops and restaurants were open. I’m glad we did it. We live pretty basic lives anyway. It’s not as if we were going out to bars or nightclubs so it suited us OK”.
Now, back in the UK, he has adapted training to the new situation, buying some second-hand gym equipment as fitness centers in the UK are just beginning to re-open.
“We used the period when we haven’t known if races are going to come back as a chance to get top-end speed a bit better. I introduced another sprint drill session a week. I’ve probably been training more like an 800m runner than a 1500m runner and I hope I can race more 800m than 1500m this year because I feel like, to compete over 800m and 1500m better I need to be able to compete with those guys, top-end speed wise. It has given us the chance to focus on other stuff. Normally you’d be getting race ready to run a quick 1500m whereas I could have focused on anything this summer. So, it was a chance to experiment a little bit with it. While I’ve been doing more speed stuff, I’ve got to be careful that while I’m not getting treatment like I would normally be, my body doesn’t start to crumble a little bit.
“Me and my dad (coach and commentator Geoff Wightman) have different views on this season. He wants me to get as many races in as possible and try and replicate championship stuff where I’m having one race a couple of days after another. But I don’t really want to waste each opportunity I have to race wise, because there are going to be so few that I’d rather try and get in the best races I can and make them good ones, rather than do an open meet just because there’s a track that has one. It’s going to be, if I can get into as many Diamond Leagues as possible, or some of the Continental Tour events. But everyone is trying to do the same thing.
“British Champs is still going to be a pretty good focus. It’s still a championship and it’s still a chance to win a British title, so I am definitely going to put that as one of my main goals of the season. I think I’m going to do the 800m and try and win a British title there. I hope I can try and get an 800m PR on the way and race a couple of 1500m and miles to see if I can run quick over that as well”.