EUGENE, Ore. (AP)The look of disbelief on British 1,500-meter champion Jake Wightman’s face as he crossed the finish line captured the evening best.
”Crazy,” he said.
Nothing quite went to script, yet everything seemed almost perfect on a wild Tuesday night at the world championships.
The in-stadium announcer for Wightman’s race was none other than his dad, Geoff. Handing Jake Wightman the gold medal after the race was none other than British middle-distance great Sebastian Coe, who also happens to be the World Athletics President and one of Wightman’s mentors.
”What else could I ask for?” Jake Wightman said.
Almost lost in all those good feelings was that Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway finished second in this one and his countryman, Karsten Warholm, seventh in the night’s last race, the 400-meter hurdles.
Wightman’s win arrived because he decided to take a chance and go all-out with about 200 meters to go.
”I thought, ‘I’m going to give this a go. If I end up finishing fourth, whatever. I gave it a go to try to win,”’ Wightman said.
Other surprises included 100-meter champion Fred Kerley suffering a cramp in the semifinals of the 200 and not advancing.
And Warholm’s loss – chalked up to a bad hamstring that’s been bugging him this season – was a win for Alison Dos Santos of Brazil. Not that huge of a surprise, though it did open the door for American Trevor Bassitt to take surprise third, then withstand a tackle from the silver medalist, teammate Rai Benjamin.
”Just amazing,” Benjamin said. ”So proud of him.”
Warholm, Benjamin and Dos Santos have formed the Big Three in the event. So any time they don’t end up on the podium it’s a shocker.
The 24-year-old Bassitt used the underdog card to his advantage. After the race, he replicated NBA standout Steph Curry’s iconic ”night, night” gesture.
No one will sleep on him again.
”I knew for me there really wasn’t that much pressure from the outside,” Bassitt said. ”I knew if I got a medal people would be shocked. I knew if I didn’t get a medal it would be like, `OK, he really wasn’t supposed to.’ I feel like I belong in that pedigree in that group of three. I feel like today proved it.”
Dos Santos powered down the homestretch to take the title and finish in a championship-record time of 46.29 seconds. That broke Kevin Young’s world-championship record of 47.18 seconds set in 1993 in Germany.
No wonder Dos Santos gave two bows to the crowd.
”The energy of the crowd was amazing,” Dos Santos said. ”I felt their love, people hugging me. When you win, you start being everyone’s favorite.”
Warholm said the hamstring was fine, but his training not as much.
”I’ve only been focusing on getting ready, and today I went all or nothing, and unfortunately it was nothing,” said Warholm, the Olympic champion and world-record holder. ”I’ve just got to live with that.”
Maybe the biggest shocker of the night was that Wightman’s dad was able to keep it together on the call in the stadium, even with his own son about to win.
”I have to keep it neutral,” he explained. ”So there’s things you can do just to stop yourself from getting emotional.”
Wightman finished in a time of 3 minutes, 29.23 seconds. His win broke a string of five straight world 1,500 titles by the Kenyans. Spain’s Mohamed Katir flew down the homestretch to take home bronze.
”To take the win, I think it will take a long time to sink in,” Wightman said. ”I just wanted to show I was in good shape and to build on it.”
Other winners included Australia’s Eleanor Patterson in the women’s high jump and Kristjan Ceh of Slovenia in the men’s discus.
Earlier in the night, Kerley slowed down midway through his 200-meter semifinal due to a cramp and finished sixth. His thoughts of two individual medals at the first worlds held on U.S. soil were dashed.
Kerley, once a 400-meter specialist who moved down in distance before last year’s Olympics, won the 100 in 9.86 seconds and was expected to lead the Americans in the 4×100 relay this weekend. He hasn’t been ruled out.
Kerley’s departure opens a less-challenging path for Noah Lyles, the defending world champion, 18-year-old Erriyon Knighton, and top-ranked Kenny Bednarek, all of whom advanced. The trio had the top three times, led by Lyles at 19.62 seconds.
The Jamaican women are poised for another sprint sweep after qualifying three for the final in the 200. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah – the finishing order of the 100 – all advanced. Jackson had the fastest time at 21.67.
It was an easy night at the track for the medal favorites in the women’s 400 hurdles. Olympic champion and world-record holder Sydney McLaughlin, defending world champion Dalilah Muhammad and Olympic bronze medalist Femke Bol of the Netherlands easily won their first-round heats.
”This event has become one of the main focuses for the last couple of years,” Muhammad said. ”It could be any one of our days. So we’ll just see how it goes.”
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