Jake Wightman happy to be coached by his dad – like Seb Coe

Scotland’s Commonwealth 1500m bronze hero speaks from lockdown in Arizona
Jake Wightman  celebrates his 1500m bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Picture: Bobby GavinJake Wightman  celebrates his 1500m bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Picture: Bobby Gavin
Jake Wightman celebrates his 1500m bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Picture: Bobby Gavin

Jake Wightman has revealed the personal consultations with Seb Coe which confirmed he was right to stick with dad Geoff as his coach.

The double Olympic champion and now IAAF President was coached by his father, Peter Coe, throughout his illustrious athletics career in the 1980s.

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Lord Coe, pictured right, is a family friend of the Wightmans, with both his dad and mum Susan (nee Tooby) international athletes from that era, so when Jake sought out advice about the coach-athlete relationship with a parent he turned to the man at the top of world athletics.

Fellow Scots like Callum Hawkins and Eilish McColgan – both coached by a parent – will doubtless understand why Jake was asking the questions.

Wightman said: “I have been lucky enough to meet up with Seb – I went to see him last year and a lot of what we talked about was the way he worked with his dad as his coach.

“My dad has read up a fair bit about Peter Coe. My dad reads a lot on coaching.

“I wanted to speak to Seb and see how they managed the relationship.

“It can be testing at times, of course it can when it is your parent involved.

“So I wanted to ask if there were points in his career where Seb felt like he might have been better off with someone else as his coach.

“But he told me he always felt that working with his dad was the best thing for him and there was no reason to change. And that made me feel that was exactly how it was for us – we’ve never felt the need to change it.

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“Peter and Seb Coe clearly developed a level of trust together and a structure which worked for them,” added the European and Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist. I feel like that’s the way it is with my dad. It will always present one or two problems when it is a parent because you are always going to be willing to say more than you would do otherwise. “I’m sure Callum and Derek Hawkins will feel the same with their dad [Robert] and Eilish McColgan with her mum [Liz].

“Peter and Seb had amazing results together as a father-son partnership and a coach-athlete partnership. Hopefully one day I will look back and feel something similar,” said Wightman, the Scottish national 1500m record holder .

The Wightmans actually sought out advice from Coe on doubling up in the 800m and 1500m at a major champioships ahead of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Wightman finished fourth in the 800m before winning bronze in the 1500m in his fourth race in five days less than 48 hours after the two-lap final.

“Seb actually presented my bronze medal for the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games,” recalled wightman in a special interview with scottishathletics.org.uk.

“I wasn’t born when he raced but I have watched the footage back and he is the athlete I would most like to be like. I would give anything to be able to deliver the times and finishes he came up with at the Olympics on two occasions.”

Dad Geoff is also a stadium commentator and, while that often means Wightman has no coach input immediately pre-race, the 25-year-old is convinced the partnership works.

“I have never felt the need to change coach,” he said. “My dad knows me as a person. He knows how I respond. He knows how to treat me if I’m not running well or am tired. You can’t replace that.

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“I don’t think I’d have got as far as I have in the sport without having someone alongside me who has grown with me. We’ve both made mistakes but we have so much more knowledge now. And there is a bigger “team’ involved now with input from others so that takes away a bit of intensity there maybe was when I was a teenager.

“There is more emotion involved when it is your dad and I like that about it. It means he is invested in it and cares deeply about my athletics career. Also, I’ve been in the sport a while now and learned a lot so I don’t mind giving him an opinion which, if he wasn’t my dad, I might not say to another coach. I am not afraid to say something – but that cuts both ways!’

Wightman was born in Nottingham but his dad’s then job as chief executive at Scottish Athletics led to him being schooled in Scotland – and he remains grateful as he looked back on a slow-burning early career.

“I do feel I’m lucky to have been brought up in Scotland and nurtured better there,’ he said. “I might have disappeared if in deeper competition at a young age. But there were representative opportunities with the Scottish Schools and that encouraged me.

“I was picked for Scottish Schools and went over to Antrim for cross country and remember being chuffed to receive that first vest.

“I was still doing other sports up until my late teens at school. I think I was about 16 before I really started doing two serious track sessions a week down at Meadowbank. I started to realise that I would have to put more focus on it to get better.

“I could see [Edinburgh AC team-mates] Chris O’Hare and Josh Kerr smashing out sessions and it made me realise what it might take.”

Wightman is currently traiing in Flagstaff, Arizona, during coronavirus lockdown.

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He said: “I was due to come out here on April 15. But about a month earlier it was suddenly clear the flights would be closed off early the following week so we got out to the States on the Monday. Since then we have been to Florida and then back to Flagstaff for training spells.

“Each time there’s been a big moment with first the Olympics postponed while we were travelling and then the Europeans being cancelled last week, too.

“It’s hard in terms of motivation but you are still hoping there may be some races towards the end of the season. I’m here now anyway and I am training well and getting pretty fit .

“I’m due back in Britain in mid-May but don’t know yet if that will be pushed back.”

l Watch the full Jake Wightman interview at www.scottishathletics.org.uk

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