In felt like 1983 all over again, Jake Wightman stunning the best 1,500 metre runners in the world to become the first British champion at the distance since the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki, where Steve Cram did something similar.
Wightman ran a tactical masterpiece, winning in a personal best of 3:29.23, holding off Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen from Norway as he surged down the home straight for the brilliant victory in Eugene, Oregon.
The 28-year-old European and Commonwealth bronze medallist could hardly believe his win, and in truth few others at Hayward Field could too: “That’s my son,” said in-stadium announcer Geoff Wightman, father and coach of the winner, “and he’s the world champion.”
Ingebrigtsen took second 3:29.47 and Spain’s Mohamed Katir coming through for bronze in 3:29.90, the pace of Wightman’s last 200m simply too hot to handle.
From the gun, Kenya’s Abel Kipsang went straight to the front and led from Ingebrigtsen and Kenya’s defending champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Wightman sitting in. Ingebrigtsen moved to the front with two laps to go, with Kipsang and Cheruiyot on his shoulder, Wightman tracking close too.
Ingebrigtsen was still in from at the bell, Cheruiyot and Kipsang on his shoulder, before Wightman made his cool move, past the two Kenyan and then breaking past Ingebrigtsen on the crown on the last bend.
Ingebrigtsen looked poised come again, only this time couldn’t find another gear, and Wightman held strong to the finish, with a silver for the Norwegian, then Katir in third, his Spanish teammate Mario Garcia, running a best of 3:30.20 for fourth. British compatriot Josh Kerr, the Olympic 1,500m bronze medallist, finished fifth in 3:30.60,
“It probably won’t sink in until I have retired,” said Wightman. “It’s mad. I had such a disappointing year in Tokyo last year. I don’t think people realise how crushing it was to go in with such high expectations and come away hoping for a medal but ending up 10th.”
The night concluded with another new World champion in the 400m hurdles, although this not quite as unexpected: billed as a rematch of the Olympic final between Karsten Warholm of Norway and Rai Benjamin of the US, it was Brazil’s Alison dos Santos who raced in front on the final bend and won in a championship record of 46.29 seconds, the third-fastest time in history and a Brazilian, South American and US all-comers record.
The-time defending champion Warholm, who hadn’t finished a race in 10 months before Eugene, stumbled at the eighth hurdle and faded to seventh place in 48.42, covering his face in his hands in dejection after crossing the line.
The 22-year-old Dos Santos had been the best performer all year and he proved it on this night, still it was a good evening for the Americans, Benjamin winning silver for a third time, clocking 46.89, teammate Trevor Bassitt nipping Wilfried Happio of France to grab the bronze in a personal best of 47.39.
Happio’s fourth place time of 47.41 was faster than Warholm’s wining time in Doha in 2019, and would have been enough to win 14 of the past 17 world titles.
Day six in Oregon sees three Irish athletes in action, Mark English taking to the 800m heats followed by the Rhasidat Adeleke and Chris O’Donnell in the 400m semi-finals.
English joins a properly stacked heat of the 800m heats (1:20am Irish time), before Adeleke returns to the track for the 400m semi-finals (2:45am): running in the fourth of six heats, only the top three, and the six fastest losers, will progress to the semi-finals.
[ Rhasidat Adeleke produces searing run to secure place in 400m semi-finals ]
Adeleke qualified automatically for the semi-finals after finishing second in the 400m heats on Sunday with a time of 51.59, after overcoming a short illness following her appearance in the mixed 4x400m on day one
Drawn in lane five, in the first of the three semi-finals, Adeleke has an outside chance of making the final with only the top two, and the two fastest losers progressing. Still only 19, with a best of 50.70 from May, it will be another invaluable experience for the Dublin sprinter.
Chris O’Donnell then goes in the men’s 400m semi-finals (3:23am), the Sligo runner coming fourth in his individual 400m heat with a time of 46.01, enough to secure one of the fastest qualification spots available.