Great Britain’s Jake Wightman earned a landmark 1500m victory in Eugene on the day the World Athletics Championships in Oregon (19) underwent a European takeover with eight of the 12 medals going to competitors from that continent.
With his father and coach Geoff calling the race as Hayward Field stadium commentator, Wightman beat Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen to the blue riband title after moving to the front with 200 metres remaining and coming home in a personal best and world leading time of 3:29.23.
Ingebrigtsen, second in 3:29.47, looked no less stunned than Wightman at the finish. Spain’s Mohamed Katir came through for bronze in 3:29.90 ahead of his compatriot Mario Garcia, who clocked 3:30.20 after a long collegiate season in the United States.
On the in-field, Slovenia’s 23-year-old Kristjan Ceh had provided Europe with its first world gold of the evening in the men’s discus, where he threw a championship record of 71.13m to become the youngest ever world champion in the event.
Lithuania’s 19-year-old Mykolas Alekna – whose father Virgilijus won the 2000 and 2004 Olympic titles and previously held the championship record with his now-usurped mark of 70.17m – claimed silver with 69.27m ahead of compatriot Andrius Gudzius, the 2017 world champion in 2017, who threw 67.55m.
In the women’s high jump, Ukraine’s 20-year-old Yaroslava Mahuchikh had taken silver on countback behind Australia’s Eleanor Patterson after both cleared 2.02m, with Italy’s Elena Vallortigara taking bronze on 2.00m.
Wightman KO’s Ingebrigtsen for 1500m gold
Wightman had tracked the leaders throughout the race, going through the bell third behind Ingebrigtsen and Kenya’s defending champion Timothy Cheruiyot before moving outside both with 200m to go and heading for home, his face a mask of concentration.
As he crossed the line he became the first Briton to win the world 1500m title since Steve Cram at the inaugural 1983 edition in Helsinki – and the first to win a global 1500m gold since Sebastian Coe retained his Olympic title in Los Angeles 1984. Coe aptly presented Wightman with his gold medal.
The 28-year-old from Nottingham who won European and Commonwealth bronze in 2018 and finished 10th in last year’s Olympic final, admitted he had not expected gold when he made his move.
"I knew the odds were getting more into my favour the later in the race it went," Wightman told The Guardian. "I felt strong but Jakob is a beast and I didn’t know if he was going to come past and there was no screen. I had some self-belief that if I gave it a go and got past I’d probably get a silver but it never happened and I’m world champion.”
Meanwhile Ceh, fifth in last year’s Olympic final, completed what has been a breakthrough season with a breakthrough global victory.
His third-round effort proved too much for a field that included Sweden’s world and Olympic champion Daniel Stahl, who could only manage fifth place with 67.10m despite the fact that he had rallied after defeats by Ceh earlier in the season to top this year’s world list with 71.47m.
Stahl briefly moved into medal contention with a throw of 69.16m in the third round but this mark was soon rescinded as it was judged that Stahl grazed the throwing circle with his heel.
But either way that mark still would have been almost two metres down on Ceh’s winning throw and the Slovenian now turns his focus to a repeat performance at the European Athletics Championships in Munich next month.
“I knew I had the ability to produce a big throw, but this is a major championships. Of course the main goal was to secure the spot, but the best bit was the 71-metre throw. It was a fast circle here but everybody has the same conditions and you just need to trust yourself. We have some time before the European Championships and I want to be the best there too.” he said.
While Ceh became the youngest ever world discus champion, Alekna junior became the youngest ever medallist in a throwing event in World Athletics Championships history. At 19 years and 304 days, Alekna won silver to follow in the footsteps of his father Virgilijus who won four medals at the World Athletics Championships, including gold in 2003 and 2005.
Gold in Belgrade, silver in Eugene for Mahuchikh
In the high jump final, Mahuchikh, who won the world indoor title in March after leaving her home city of Dnipropetrovsk under bombardment from Russian forces and enduring a stop-start three-day car journey to Belgrade, narrowly missed out on a second global gold to her collection.
Taking two attempts to clear 2.02m cost her gold with Patterson, who went over first time after requiring three attempts at 1.98m, adding two centimetres to her personal best and matching the national record set by Nicola McDermott – now Olyslagers – in winning silver at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Olyslagers was fifth on 1.96 as bronze went to Vallortigara on 2.00m on countback from another Ukrainian, Iryna Gerashchenko.
Only seventh at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem earlier this month, 17-year-old Karmen Bruus astonishingly matched that position on her World Athletics Championships debut. After clearing a lifetime best of 1.93m in qualifying, Bruus cleared another lifetime best of 1.96m in the final to equal the world U18 best.
In the eagerly awaited men’s 400m hurdles final Norway’s defending two-time champion Karsten Warholm, who won the Olympic title in a world record of 45.94 last summer, made a typically courageous attempt at retaining his title despite having cleared just one hurdle in competition before these championships, pulling up with a hamstring injury in the Rabat Diamond League.
By qualifying in 48.00 Warholm indicated that, if his body held together, he would be competitive in the final.
But his lack of racing and preparation told and he slipped gradually back down the field before finishing seventh in 48.42 as gold went to the exuberant 22-year-old Brazilian Alison dos Santos, who took bronze in Tokyo and has been the main man this season, in a championship record of 46.29 ahead of Rai Benjamin in 46.89.
As Warholm faded out of contention, he was overhauled by the likes of Wilfried Happio from France who slashed one second from his pre-championship lifetime best with 47.41 to finish fourth and just missed out on the bronze medal on the dip against Trevor Bassitt in 47.39.
Happio now occupies third on the European all-time list behind Warholm's world record of 45.96 and his compatriot Stephane Diagana, the former world and European champion, with 47.37.