IT is not an overstatement to say Jake Wightman came out of lockdown firing on all cylinders.

While many athletes found it hard to maintain their motivation during the summer with no hint of when the sporting world would start back up again, Wightman got his head down and made the absolute most of a very bad situation.

Indeed, such was the vigour with which the 26-year-old approached the enforced break as a result of the pandemic, he emerged on the other side of it in the shape of his life.

This in itself is no mean feat for an athlete who even prior to this year, had established himself as the most exciting male middle-distance runner in the UK. That position is now cemented, with his blistering run in the 1500m at the Monaco Diamond League meet in August, shaving over two seconds off his previous best. The Scot clocked 3 minutes 29.47 seconds, putting him second on the list of fastest-ever Brits behind only Mo Farah, but ahead of the greats of British middle-distance running; Coe, Cram and Ovett.

And just a few weeks later, Wightman confirmed he was in peak shape with another lightning-fast run, this time over 800m, setting another personal best in Ostrava.

It was, in fact, a conversation with his father and coach, Geoff, about those three legends of the sport from the 1980s which inspired Wightman to target a record-breaking season. Although even he didn’t expect things to pan out quite as well as they ultimately did.

“When we knew there was no chance of a major championship this year, I sat down with my dad and he told me that when Coe, Cram and Ovett were racing, the Worlds were only every four years so they had regular off years and it was those years they always made their world record attempts,” the Edinburgh runner explained.

“So he just said to me why don’t I use this year to try to run as quick as I can, especially at 800m. I didn’t plan on running a really fast 1500m because I took a fair bit off my PB last year and so didn’t think it could be dropped further. I’d hoped I could get close to my 1500m PB but I didn’t think it would go quite as well as it went on the day in Monaco.”

Wightman is turning into quite an athlete. Pre-pandemic, the Edinburgh man had begun to rack up major championship medals, winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships in 2018, before proving he has what it takes to step up to the global stage by finishing in fifth place at the World Championships last year.

All the signs were that he could mount a real challenge at Tokyo 2020 but, as we all know, Covid had other ideas.

Wightman, who will battle Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie for Scottish Athletics’ Performer of the Year next Saturday, was in America when the pandemic really took hold, and after swithering abut whether or not to return to the UK, opted to remain State-side, meaning he was able to train almost as normal.

His return to the UK in late-summer presented a few challenges though. A track was finally found, but gym equipment had to be scavenged from Gumtree and the like to ensure he had even a semblance of a strength and conditioning programme.

However, while the lack of races on the horizon wasn’t always easy, Wightman admits he never had any trouble firing himself up for training.

“Getting up for training was never a problem because I always had the thought of next year to drive me on,” he said.

“The monotony of it all was sometimes tough but I was still pretty motivated because even though I didn’t know when I’d be back racing, I knew the sessions wouldn’t go to waste in the long run. I knew I was banking all the hard work for next year.

“I never need to look too far to find reasons to train hard – first of all, it’s my job and so I feel like it’s my duty to work as hard as I can but also, I want to see what I can really do over the next few years and so that pushes me on.”

While the lack of racing was not ideal for any athlete, Wightman admits there have been a number of positives to emerge from a summer which had significantly less pressure on it than usual, with, he says, “no fear of failure” hanging over him.

His focus on the 800m was something he may never have done otherwise, and the benefits have been clear to see. And with Tokyo now, once again, on the horizon, Wightman has already turned his attention to potentially adding one of the most prestigious medals of all to his collection.

“I’m pretty realistic about it all. Yes, I feel like I could come back from Tokyo with a medal but so much can happen,” he said.

“I’m fortunate in that every year, I’ve improved and I know now I’m getting pretty close to where I want to be in my career, which is getting global medals. So I’m looking forward to the next year but at the same time, I’ve got to make sure I stay relaxed, don’t put too much pressure on myself and make sure I have a good winter ready for next season.

“But the way my career’s shaping up, I definitely feel like things are looking pretty exciting.”