Lord Coe believes Jake Wightman can chase world domination and has the potential to become Britain’s most successful middle distance runner.
New world champion Wightman claimed Great Britain’s first gold of the World Championships with a shock 1500m win in Eugene on Tuesday.
He is now targeting the 1500m title at the Commonwealth Games for Scotland and is preparing to run the 800m at the European Championships in August.
Wightman also only has 12 months until the next World Championships in Budapest and two years until the Paris Olympics, with World Athletics president Coe – arguably the best middle distance runner of his generation – aware of what the 28-year-old can do.
“This is potentially a real purple patch for him because of the way the calendar is now. He is defending that next year and then, hopefully, be in great shape for the Olympics a year later,” he said.
“People go ‘two years’ but it’s not two years. That’s one year and three months of intense training and all the other stuff. It’s no time at all. If he can log that he could technically end up as the most successful British middle distance runner we have ever had.”
Double Olympic 1500m champion Coe has also been Wightman’s unofficial adviser, offering him help while daughter, Maddie, has a quirky link to his mum Susan.
“I’m not going to portray myself as his coach or anything like that but we chat and have for a long time, for four or five years,” he said. “Remember he is a Loughborough boy too. We’ve sort of come together since he’s left Loughborough.
“Interestingly we’ve had lengthy conversations over the last couple of years about whether he doubles up (with the 800m and 1500m) or not. He does need to do the 800m training and he’s clearly done that.
“The other interesting thing is, I think it was in November, I was really impressed that on a really horrible winter day he and Laura (Muir) were both running in Lanarkshire cross country races. He is conditioned, they both are.
“That’s how they did what they did (winning gold and bronze in the 1500m). The biggest challenge is going through the rounds which is why I think what they both did is based on proper endurance principles.
“Jake’s mother was Maddie, my oldest daughter’s PE teacher. I got a text from my daughter who’s in New York when she saw it, saying ‘my first PE teacher had a pretty good night last night, didn’t she’.”
Wightman’s mum Susan ran for Great Britain at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, finishing 12th in the marathon, and also came sixth in the 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games two year before.
She was at Hayward Field as Wightman took gold, with dad and coach Geoff also commentating in the stadium.
Susan said: “The situation I had, I am an identical twin like Jake and I was always the one behind. My sister (Angela Tooby-Smith) was more successful and it was hard, always to be the other one.
“But Sam (Wightman’s twin) has a special relationship with Jake and because he’s not an athlete himself – although he is quite a good runner, he’s an actor – he’s so proud of him in a different way than I think my sister and I were.
“That is special and his sister Martha also runs. Had they had the opportunity to come here they would have jumped at it.”
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