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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

‘That’s my son, I coach him. And he is the world champion!’ Announcer calls son Jake Wightman’s gold-medal winning run

With his father mic'd up, his mother, an Olympic runner in the stands, Jake Wightman ran the race of his life to upset the Olympic champion Ingebrigtsen

Jake Wightman, Geoff Wightman, Announcer father calls son Jake Wightman,winner, World Athletics Championship, Jake Wightman, gold, Geoff WightmanJake Wightman, of Britain, wins the men's 1500-meter final run at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Geoff Wightman was a marathon runner who came sixth in the European championships in 1990. His wife is an Olympic marathon runner who finished 12th at Seoul 1998. His wife’s identical twin, also an Olympian, had won bronze at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

On Tuesday, Geoff was sitting, mic’d up at the World Athletics championships, as a stadium announcer. His wife Susan nee Tooby was up in the stands, diagonally above the finish line. The 1500m event was on. Their son Jake was running.

Near the final lap, suddenly, Jake started to pull away, past the defending champion, then went around the Olympic gold medalist  the Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and ever so coolly took the inside line and kept sprinting ahead. The crowd gasps. Ingebrigtsen puts in his final kick but can’t catch Jake. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Up there at his spot, Geoff is up on his feet, yelling out the commentary. Just before the finish line, someone taps on his shoulder as congratulations. Geoff rumbles on, ““Jake Wightman has just had the run of his life!” Before he adds, “My voice has gone.”

As Jake celebrates the incredible upset, the camera also cuts to Geoff. “ “I have got to tell you why the camera is on me,” before he finally lets some pride slip in. “That’s my son. I coach him. And he’s the world champion!”

Jake gets up from the ground, looks around, spots his mother, and runs up the stair. As he had neared the finish line, his mother had been flapping her arms and shrieking in joy. Now, she would hug her son. Soon, Geoff could be seen sprinting up the stairs. The family of Olympians, encircled in a huddle of joy.
Back home, their other son Samuel – who is Jake’s twin (another twin in the family!), had woken up at 3.30 am to watch the run on the telly. He didn’t turn professional but was a runner in his teens.

When the family shifted to the picturesque city of Edinburgh, when the twins were 10, after Geoff was appointed the chief executive of Scottish Athletics, things began to turn serious for Jake. “There’s definitely one race where he went the wrong way, and I think that was when I took the opportunity to win,” Sam tells the London Telegraph. There is a sister too Martha, who too runs and was the first in the family-friendly mile-run in the first Westminster Mile run after pandemics, where incidentally the former England captain Andrew Strauss too had run with his sons in the memory of his departed wife.

Jake Wightman Geoff and Susan Wightman pose with their son Gold medalist Jake Wightman after the men’s 1500-meter final run at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The parents had met at the tracks in the commonwealth games in 1990 where Angela, the identical twin of their mother Susan, had taken bronze. Susan had a stress fracture before the event, and had accompanied her father to see Angela run. There, they met Geoff, who was running, and his family. Friendship flourished, and in a year, they would marry. She kept running after having kids.

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“While I’m out running it’s an ideal time to “switch off” from everyday worries and it gives me the opportunity to think deeply and to think about loved ones that have passed away. I’m not one to shout out about what I believe in as it’s quite personal to me. But I do have a connection with my faith and the environment, I think they go hand in hand. As you get older there’s a tendency to worry about things more and running is good for relaxing,” Susan once told Cranleigh Magazine.

Jake, now the world champion, summed up his philosophy of running in the same magazine. “Because Mum had gone to the Olympics, I had a false sense and thought that as my parents were international athletes that I could choose to do it and succeed. But I’ve found the opposite. These sports are hard. Athletics is not a skill, it’s physical and it’s about how willing you are to be uncomfortable. When you race it’s about who can get the most out of himself and be better than the others. It’s not like a football match where one moment of brilliance wins the game. It’s the years of learning and developing that win races and the months building up to that moment. It’s a purely physical event rather than any skill.”

At Tokyo, he had reached the finals though he couldn’t put together his best performance in the run. Geoff was again the stadium announcer, then, and without much crowd due to the pandemic, the son could hear the father. “The thing to do is block that out with as many positive thoughts as possible. The Tokyo stadium had music playing and Dad was a stadium announcer so I could hear him which was encouraging.”

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“If you’ve got self-doubt and don’t have confidence you won’t do anything. You’ve got to stand on the startline and believe that you’re going to win a race because that’s the only way you will.”

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Which he did on the biggest day of his career, watched by his parents, the mother an emotional wreck in the stands, the father yelling out live commentary and telling the world ‘that’s my son!’.

First published on: 21-07-2022 at 10:34:01 am
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