World champion Jake Wightman grasps Commonwealth Games bronze in savage 1,500m5 min read
Immediately after matching his 1,500 metres bronze from the last Commonwealth Games, recently-crowned world champion Jake Wightman made a plea: “I hope I don’t get shot down too much for not having won it.”
If anyone has any sense, they will not do so. This was, without parallel, the toughest event of the entire athletics programme at these Commonwealth Games, and it was run at breakneck speed.
As well as Wightman, the field contained the second, third and fourth from last year’s Olympics. That none of them won it — with Australia’s Ollie Hoare claiming a shock gold medal — told a story in itself.
It is incredibly difficult to go from the high of a World Championships final to another major event so quickly, even without factoring in the huge time difference and associated jet lag of travelling from America’s west coast to Birmingham.
That Hoare failed even to make the world final in Oregon was almost certainly the decisive factor at the end of a bruising, rapidly-run race. Unlike when he announced his son as the world champion, this time Wightman’s father and coach – and Alexander Stadium commentator – Geoff could only call him home in bronze-medal position for Scotland.
“That was as good as I could have done,” said Wightman. “I didn’t want to be a pedestrian and be running for minor medals. I wanted to make a statement but I didn’t feel anywhere near as good as I did a couple of weeks ago.
“People don’t realise how high that World Championships was. Two weeks is nothing to have to reset. It’s mentally so tough to come back from that.
“I’ve done what I wanted to do ever since I was a kid and won a global title, and anything else from there is a bonus.
“That’s a great season. It’s still something, isn’t it? So I’m relatively content with that. I’m not buzzing but I’m relieved.”
Having sat content in the pack for much of the race, Wightman hit the front only marginally earlier than he had done when winning his world title, opting to inject a burst of pace with around 250m remaining. In Eugene, his strength meant he was able to hold off all challengers, but those exertions caught up with him in Birmingham.
First, Kenya’s former world champion Timothy Cheruiyot passed him. Then, finishing swiftly on the outside, Hoare followed suit. As the Kenyan tied up approaching the line, Hoare seized his chance to snatch one of the least likely Commonwealth titles in three minutes 30.12 seconds.
A tiring, stumbling Cheruiyot was only marginally behind in 3-30.21, with Wightman holding on for bronze in 3-30.53.
It was quick. Eight of the 12 finalists set personal bests, and the first six men home all went inside the Commonwealth Games record that had stood since 1974.
Of his decision to kick for home so early, Wightman said: “It was a bit instinctive. I wanted to get to the bend in the lead again.
“I knew I wasn’t as fresh. It’s a different track and stadium to race in. I was hanging on in the home straight, as opposed to feeling strong.
“I felt pretty vulnerable, but I wouldn’t have changed it. If I’d won I would be here feeling pretty good about the decision.
“I knew when I went I was going to have a tough home straight but hoped everyone else would be feeling the same.
“Initially, I was pretty disappointed but if I told myself I would come back two weeks after winning the World Champs and in a similar field pick up a bronze I’d be pretty happy.”
Olympic finalist Hoare said he was fueled by the disappointment of failing to make the world final a fortnight ago.
“Holy s—. The Commonwealth Games 1,500m is so tough,” he said. “On the start line, you hear the accolades of every athlete. To be there in an event so deep, and where not many Australians have been able to achieve medals, was an absolute privilege.
“I wanted it, especially after World Champs, which was such a disappointment. I thought about that [semi-final in Eugene] race, and I thought: ‘Not today. I’m going for it today’. And I was able to come through at the end.”
‘Frustrated’ Hodgkinson takes silver
For all that Keely Hodgkinson has settled neatly into her status as the new queen of British athletics, she was on the wrong side of an 800m upset when forced to relinquish gold in the closing stages of a truly bizarre run from Kenya’s Mary Moraa.
Having set off at suicidal pace through 200m, Moraa then appeared to drop out of contention entirely, slowing to a crawl and falling more than 10m off the lead in last place soon after the bell.
Yet as Hodgkinson began to take control down the back straight, Moraa – who later admitted she had “lost hope because everyone went past me” – found an explosive second wind, surging past the entire field before regaining the lead with around 50m remaining. Her victory came in 1-57.07, with Hodgkinson second in 1-57.40 and 1,500m specialist Laura Muir finishing fast for bronze in 1-57.87.
The top two reversed their finishing order from last month’s World Championships, where Hodgkinson claimed silver and Moraa bronze.
“Frustrated is definitely the right word,” said Hodgkinson. “I am not sure what happened, it went so quick, maybe I could have been more patient with myself. But I gave it my all.”
Hughes gets 200m silver
Four years after a furious Zharnel Hughes was disqualified having completed a lap of honour celebrating a Commonwealth 200m title that was never to be, the Anguilla-born Englishman won silver in Birmingham.
Hughes crossed the line first in 2018, only for the judges to rule that his arm had struck Trinidad & Tobago’s Jereem Richards in the closing stages, upgrading Richards to gold. The Trinidadian successfully defended his title in 19.80sec on Saturday night, with Hughes claiming silver in 20.12sec.
England’s reigning Commonwealth hammer throw champion Nick Miller retained his title with a 76.43m effort, before urging Britain’s governing body to show more support for his discipline.
“I’m sure I’m going to get told off for this, but we don’t get opportunities,” he said. “There are a lot of guys in this country who would probably beat the hell out of me if they competed. But we lose them to things like rugby because we don’t get any popularity.”
England’s Adam Hague and Harry Coppell won pole vault silver and bronze.
Laugher bounces back from a zero score to join Goodfellow-led home clean sweep
By Jamie Gardner
Jack Laugher bounced back from a zero score in qualifying to claim bronze in an English one-two-three in the men’s 3 metre springboard final – then admitted such a devastating setback could have “ruined him” in the past.