Winning gold hasn’t changed my life yet – but I hope it will at Paris Olympics

People ask me if my life has changed since I won world championship gold in the 1500metres last summer. The answer is ‘not really’.

At 28, I was not exactly an ‘overnight success’. And if you are getting into track and field for the fame and attention, you’re definitely in the wrong sport.

Then I found myself in a Zoom waiting room for Claudia Winkleman’s show on BBC Radio 2 with the great actor Sir Ian McKellen, who was sitting in his living room eating cereal. Surreal!

But the reality is I don’t think there were ever going to be massive changes to my life. Attending the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards was a cool opportunity and it felt like I’d transcended my own sport that night in December.

But I would not have wanted the gold medal to have been life-changing because I want to win more medals in my career and hopefully finish up with an Olympic medal too – ideally also a gold one. That would be the one that would change a lot of things.

I’d dreamt about how it would go if I won a world title for the first time and my dad (athletics commentator Geoff) being on the microphone and mum being there to watch was the ideal scenario.

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I have never been someone who is fuelled by setbacks but after the disappointment of the Tokyo Olympics the previous year I did need to come back and feel rejuvenated and that’s what I did at the start of 2022.

For so long, the Olympics was what I was looking forward to – the end point. I believed I would produce my best run and I didn’t really care what happened the year after. I never thought about it.

Jake Wightman’s fact file

Age: 28

Hometown: Nottingham

Represents: Great Britain and Scotland

Events: 1500m and 800m

Recent achievements in 2022: 1500m World Championships gold, 800m European Championships silver

It was only as 2022 approached I began to think about going out and making amends for what I saw as a below-par tenth place in Japan. It was going to take a whole year’s progress to make sure I did that but now I have I hope I have a formula that works. You don’t earn the right to stay at the level you have got to. In athletics, you start again.

The world champs are usually every two years but with the event in Oregon delayed 12 months by Covid, I have to defend my title in Hungary this summer.

I know how hard it was to get to the level I was at in 2022 and I know I have to go through that whole process again, probably even more so, to make sure I am better than I was last year.

It’s tough and you wonder ‘am I going to be able to come out in 2023 and be as good?’.

My winter has been solid and I’m in a similar place to where I was last year. We’re going into the indoor season now and I was hoping to have a couple of races to test my fitness. Sadly due to a foot injury that’s not going to happen, which is the nature of the sport. Everything now is focused towards the summer, where I hope to be running as good as ever.

I know more pressure comes with being champion but if nothing else works for me until I get to that final in August, that’s fine by me. If I won in Budapest, I wouldn’t really care about anything else. I have to make sure I am at my best for that.

I have received a wild card as reigning champion. In any other year my dad, as stadium announcer, would be the only one from the family guaranteed to go to that championships so, for this year at least, that makes a nice change.


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