Jake Wightman dares to be great as Zurich Diamond League offers glimpse of future

Jake Wightman wins the men’s 800m event during the IAAF Diamond League ‘Memorial Van Damme’ athletics meeting at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on 2 September

Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing

Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news

Thanks for signing up to the
Sport email

From disbelief to a swagger in what appeared to be his weaker event, Jake Wightman now stands tall following his stunning upset in Eugene, Oregon, to become world champion. From dethroning the formidable Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen at 1500m, the Briton is now hunting supremacy in the prestigious Diamond League finale down at 800m. Versatility has been the strategy since the turn of the year; carefully devised alongside his father and stadium announcer Geoff. And now the results are there to bolster an athlete brimming with ambition after adding a European silver and Commonwealth bronze.

Not only does Wightman have the hardware, he now has a signature move to entertain those watching. That early kick, sometimes even before the final bend, is an intimidating tactic for his rivals to digest. It has always been the most potent part of his 1500m game, but Wightman repeated the trick in the Brussels Diamond League to good effect on Friday. Emmanuel Korir, the Olympic and world 800m champion, was expected to close in during the final stages of the two-lap contest but instead the Kenyan was left flailing in the dust as Wightman stormed home with a shiny new PB in 1:43.65.

Exhausted, crouching down just like he did in Eugene, but this time with a hint of a grin.

Thursday will see another duel with Korir, though his Kenyan teammate Wyclife Kinyamal Kisasy, Marco Arop and Bryce Hoppel make for a star-studded line-up. This will close out Wightman’s track season before a swift flight over to New York for Sunday’s feted New Balance 5th Avenue Mile. It would be understandable if Wightman was weary, even if he has mostly halved his race distance since Birmingham. But what if he can take another scalp?

Victory could potentially see father and son shuffle plans for next year when he will defend his 1500m world title in Budapest. Such prowess over both distances could lead to an audacious tilt at the double, following in the footsteps of the legendary Seb Coe and Steve Ovett.

Recommended



“You look at the days of Coe and Ovett in Moscow 1980, coming out and running as well in an 800m as in 1500m,” the 28-year-old said after narrowly missing out on gold in Munich to Mariano Garcia.

“I’d love to be like that, and this is a good stepping stone towards it for me – 800m races are fun, I think they’re more fun to watch as you don’t bore people with four minutes of running, and it’s only two. Every round I’ve learnt a little bit more throughout the seasons.

“I hope I can race some more 800m in championships, because I feel like I’ve got some potential to go and do that on a global stage if I give a little bit more care towards it.”

Domestic dust-ups with compatriots Jake Heyward and Olympic bronze medalist Josh Kerr, not to mention another brutal sub-3:30 battle with Ingebrigtsen, will have to wait as that trio line up with Commonwealth champion Oli Hoare in a stacked 1500m final. But Zurich provides another huge opportunity for Wightman to further bolster a growing reputation and tease the prospect of even more thrills in 2023.

Shericka Jackson will once more lock horns with her Jamaican teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 100m

Elsewhere in the Swiss finale to the season, several world records could tumble; Armand Duplantis in the pole vault, Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump and Tobi Amusan in the 100m hurdles provide essential viewing as they dare to reimagine what’s possible in their events.

There are plenty of rivalries too, particularly in the women’s 100m where the evergreen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce bids to hold off Shericka Jackson, a contender for breakthrough athlete of the year after posting the third-fastest 200m of all time (21.45) in Eugene. The Jamaican has also now run 10.73 over 100m and beat out Fraser-Pryce, whose season’s best is 10.62, in an eclectic Brussels contest. It means there are now three Jamaicans, including the absent Elaine Thompson-Herah, now capable of taking a swing at Florence Griffith-Joyner’s disputed mark of 10.49, which has stood for 34 years, each time they sit in the blocks.

It is not a meet without a tinge of disappointment though, with the event’s concept and the sport itself outside of the Olympics and World Championships desperate for innovation to better showcase its talent.

Recommended



Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world champion and world record holder in the women’s 400m hurdles, is a glaring omission from the field. A candidate for female athlete of the year, the American races infrequently, denying the sport a potential rivalry blossoming with Femke Bol. A return to the Diamond League in Monaco since her last outing in 2019 was encouraging, but perhaps the 22-year-old, who has dazzled through astonishing times and dominant wins, including her historic 50.68 in Eugene, will become busier next year.

For now, though, Zurich provides a large sample of the very best the sport can offer and a final chance to redeem a season or, in Wightman’s case, provide further intrigue to what is yet to come.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

{{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

{{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Source: Read Full Article