Jake Wightman gave his all in a Commonwealth 1500m final all his life. This time around, however, the familiar formula didn’t quite work as Ollie Hoare emerged last to win Australia’s first gold in the middle distance at the Games since Herb Elliott in 1958.
Hoare promised to buy the legendary Elliott, who is now 84, a drink. It is sure to be a big party.
However, Wightman did not regret his daring attempt to win three major titles in a summer – at the World Championships, Commonwealths and Europeans – failed. Two weeks ago in Eugene, the 28-year-old Scot had stunned everyone by having 200 meters to go for the win and then holding on for a famous world title.
But this time, when he repeated the trick, his pursuers were ready—and his legs were a little heavier. And while he was in the lead with 50m to go, he was passed first by Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot and then by Hoare, who rose just before the finish line to win in a Commonwealth Games record of 3:30.12. Cheruiyot took silver in 3:30.21 with Wightman 0.32 back in third.
“That was as good as I could have done,” Wightman said. “I didn’t want to be a pedestrian and run for small medals. I wanted to make a statement, but I wasn’t feeling nearly as good as I was a few weeks ago.
“I knew when I went that I was going to have a difficult home, but I hoped everyone would feel the same,” he added. “At first I was quite disappointed, but if I told myself that I would come back two weeks after winning the world championships and get a bronze medal in a similar field, I would be quite happy. It’s so hard mentally to come back from that.”
The bookmakers may have made Wightman their favourite. But he knew, like the rest of us, that this was a 1500m final, full of class and doubts. Three of the top four at last year’s Olympics fielded, along with Hoare who had several notable performances this season before excelling in the world championship semi-finals. This was to prove the sweetest redemption.
It didn’t last as Kenyan Abel Kipsang pulled the field around the first lap in a fast 54 seconds, with Cheruiyot close by. But Wightman looked well placed before making his move on the straight. “It was a bit instinctive,” he said. “I wanted to take the lead again in the corner. I knew I wasn’t that fresh. I held onto it at home, instead of feeling strong. I felt quite vulnerable.”
Hoare, meanwhile, enjoyed a stunning win. When asked for his opinion, he simply replied, “Holy shit.”
“The race went fast right away,” he said after regaining his composure. “But I trained for a fast race and I ran a 3:47 mile in Oslo, so I knew I had the power there. It was just about kicking it at the right time.”
“I continued on the inside with one lap to go and I saw Jake next to me and I started to panic because he is the world champion. And you hear the Scottish roar in the stadium. But I tried to keep my composure. And then, with 100 meters to go, when I got out to lane three, it was all about keeping form and just running like hell hell. ”
But it wasn’t until the last five meters that he finally got up when Cheruiyot stumbled.
“I could tell I had him because he couldn’t estimate where anyone else was,” Hoare said. “So he was in a very volatile position, even if you’re of his caliber. And I saw it start to lock up and I knew I had more juice in the tank. I thought: not today. I’m going for it today. And in the end I was able to get through it.”
Elsewhere on the final morning of the athletics, England hammered gold in the form of Nick Miller, whose modest 76.43m throw was good enough against a weak field.