This piece is by Stuart Weir, our senior writer for Europe. Stuart lives in Oxford, England, the intellectual capital of the world, and has been traveling far and wide to cover the sport for RunBlogRun and our friends at Athletics Weekly.
Stuart wrote this piece on the Men’s 800 meters and the breakthrough that Jake Wightman continues in 2022 with his gold medal at 1,500m in the World Championships, which preceded the bronze in the Commonwealth Games at 1,500m and his silver in the 800 meters at the European Champs just two weeks ago.
Jake Wightman, rightly so, knew he had more to give at the 800 meters, and his win, and record-breaking performances. Jake Wightman won the Memorial Van Damme 800 meters in great style.
In the men’s 800m, the World Champion at 800 took on the World Champion at 1500, Emmanuel Korir of Kenya, against Jake Wightman of Britain or indeed Scotland. Jake Wightman was a surprise winner of the 1500m in Oregon, going with 200m left and managing to hold off Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Timothy Cheruiyot, and the rest to take gold. Korir was perhaps a surprise winner in the Tokyo Olympics and then in Oregon – as Greg Rutherford used to say, he “fluked another one!”
I remember Jake telling me last year that he was determined to compete in all three championships in 2022 – Worlds, Commonwealth, and European – but that he did not think he could run rounds of 1500 in three events. As a result, he would switch between the 800s and 1500s.
A proper 800 field has been assembled in Brussels to test the two world champions: Wycliffe Kinyamal, Ferguson Rotich, European champion Mariano Garcia, and Marco Arop among them. Pacemaker, Khaled Benmahdi, went through 400 in 49.66 and left them to it. Wightman took the lead with 200m to go. Reminiscent of Oregon? Not intentionally so, as he explained to me afterward: “I didn’t really want to go at that point, but I felt the guys in front were slowing a bit, and I didn’t want to let the pace slow, so it seemed the right time to go. The fear was that there would be guys who would be stronger than me in the home straight, but the track is quick, and I felt strong enough to hold it”.
The result was
1 Jake Wightman 1:43.65
2 Djamel Sedjati (Algeria) 1:44.12(.113)
3 Emmanuel Korir 1:44.12(.116)
And to give the home crowd an opportunity for an extra cheer, Eliot Crestan (Belgium) ran a PR of 1:44.24 for fourth place
My reference to Jake as Scottish was not accidental but lead into noting that he set a new Scottish record eclipsing Tom McKean’s long-standing mark of 1:43.80. He explained: “I went into the race wanting to commit to see what I could do time-wise. Delighted to have got Tom McKean’s Scottish record. I would have been disappointed to run my whole career and not get it. I am glad I am in the shape to do it – still to be able to run PRs at this stage of the season is nice”.
Next week Jake is in the Diamond League final. Qualified for both 800 and 1500, he is continuing his late-season preference for the shorter distance.
Emmanuel Korir was gracious in defeat, saying: “It was really tough today, definitely that last 100m. I wasn’t thinking anymore, my legs felt heavy, and I didn’t even know what was going on. But 1:44 low isn’t bad. Jake is a really great person, and I’m happy for him with this win”.
PS Fifth Avenue Mile
Jake threw out a warning about the New York road race a week on Sunday, gently reminding everyone that last year, the men’s and women’s races had Scottish winners! But a repeat performance would not be enough for Jake: “With me, Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley as well as Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie, a 1-2-3 on the men’s podium and a 1-2 on girls’ side as well would be a good result!”, he suggested.