IT says it all about Jake Wightman’s aspirations that despite finishing a hugely creditable tenth in the Olympic 1500m final last summer, he knew he was still some way off where he wanted to be. 

So his winter following the Tokyo Olympics was spent masterminding a plan to ensure he improves from finishing in the top ten in global championship finals to challenging for a place on the podium. 

With Wightman about to begin his World Championship campaign in Eugene in the early hours of tomorrow morning - the first of three major championships this season - the signs that he has taken a step to the next level are promising. 

Last month, after winning two silvers and three bronzes over the past decade at the British Championships, he won his first national 1500m title, which is no mean feat considering the world class nature of the event in Britain currently. 

In pipping his compatriots, Neil Gourley and Olympic medallist Josh Kerr, to the British title, Wightman demonstrated he has found that few extra per cent that might just make the difference when it comes to collecting global silverware. 

“I was really happy with the British Champs – I’ve been wanting to win one of those for a long time and so it’s really nice to have done it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I knew everyone was thinking the same thing about going for the win so it was good to get it done on the day,” he says. 

“I wanted to be British champion and it’s good to have the confidence that I have what it takes to beat the best in Britain - that means you know you’re running well. 

“If you make the British 1500m team, you know you’re then expected to make the final at the Worlds and be competitive when you’re there so that’s a nice feeling.” 

Following his British Championships win, Wightman headed to Colorado Springs to finalise his World Championships preparations at altitude. 

The 28-year-old has always had speed in his locker; having long been one of the UK’s strongest 800m protagonists in addition to his 1500m talents, his burst of pace was never an issue but it was the endurance side of things that has been found wanting at the very highest level. 

Certainly, the lesson he derived from Tokyo last summer was that although he was within touching distance of very best in the world, there was work to do if he was to become a true contender for global silverware. 

“Every time I race, I race to win. Last year, at the Olympics, I put myself in a good position at the start to do that but I wasn’t as good as I needed to be towards the end,” he says.  

“After Tokyo, I realised that probably throughout the whole season, I’d not quite been good enough. 

“So this year I’ve done a bit more indoors, run some 3ks and done more strength-based stuff because that’s what you need and so hopefully it’ll pay off.” 

The challenge for Wightman, as well as his fellow Scots and GB teammates Gourley and Kerr, is that the strength of 1500m running globally means that reaching the final can be just as challenging as making the podium, if not even more so. 

Kerr’s Olympic exploits last summer, in which he was almost eliminated in the opening round before ultimately winning bronze, was the perfect example of quite how tricky navigating the rounds can be at major championships and Wightman is well aware that while his ultimate target is a place on the podium in Eugene, there is much work to do before he can start thinking about silverware. 

“I’d love to medal this week, that’s for sure,” he says.  

“I’ve run times in the past that suggest I should be able to be there or thereabouts, whatever the pace is in the final.  

“It’s just about getting through the rounds expending as little energy as possible. 

“At the Olympics, every round was fast so you have to recover and be ready to run even quicker the next day. “By the final, you’re mentally and physically pretty tired but you have to be ready to run your fastest in that last race. 

“In Tokyo, my semi was maybe a little bit too good whereas if I’d qualified in third or fourth, I could maybe have saved myself a little bit more for the final. It’s these kind of things you need to learn from.” 

Wightman, as do his fellow Scots in Eugene, faces the challenge of the rapid turnaround between these World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, which begin just four days after the conclusion of Eugene. 

Having won Commonwealth bronze four years ago, Wightman knows he has what it takes to add further to his medal collection in Birmingham but contending with both the mental and the physical strain of such a quick transition will be no mean feat. 

Wightman admits the Commonwealth Games have, as yet, barely entered his thinking but as soon as he leaves the US, he knows he will have to ensure he is laser focused, with the strength of the Commonwealth final likely ensuring he has no room to relax. 

“If Eugene goes well, I can hopefully go with that and carry it onto Birmingham. And if Eugene doesn’t go well, you’ve got that bit of motivation to get straight into Birmingham and put things right,” he says. 

“It’s a very, very tough task to run well in both but if you play it right, it’s definitely possible.  

“At the moment, I’m just thinking about Eugene because for me, the World Champs is something I’m very excited about - it’ll be after Eugene, once I get to Birmingham and into the Games environment that I’ll start getting really excited about the Commies.”