TEEN PRODIGY INGEBRIGTSEN’S TALE COMES OF AGE IN BERLIN
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|It was the golden double that rippled around the world, a feat of athletic mastery most could only dream of at any stage of their careers, never mind at the tender age of 17.
But sit Jakob Ingebrigtsen down and ask him just how he became this good, this early, and the Norwegian is happy to elaborate and explain why his is an otherworldly talent that has not just been born, but also made.
“I’ve been a professional runner since I was eight, nine, 10 years old,” he says. “I’ve been training, dedicated and following a good structure – the same as my brothers – from an early age.
“Not too much,” he adds, “but a lot compared to runners in Norway. That’s the main reason.”
For years he has been on the radar of anyone with a finger to the pulse of underage athletics, but when Jakob completed the 1500m/5000m double this week at the European Championships in Berlin, his star truly went supernova.
Keen followers of the sport had been aware of Jakob Ingebrigtsen before he even made his international debut in 2016. When older brothers Henrik and Filip started winning international medals from as far back as 2012, they had spoken of their up-and-coming younger brother.
But few fans – and not even Jakob himself – had expected him to rise to such lofty heights so sudden.
One of the first displays of his impressive range came at the Norwegian Junior and Youth Championships in 2015. In the space of three days, he won the U16 titles at 800m, 2000m, 1500m steeplechase and 300m hurdles.
At just 15 years of age, he competed at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016. It was his first international championships and he was up against athletes three years his senior, but he finished a respectable ninth in the 1500m final.
Later that year, he landed his first major title by winning the U20 men’s race at the European Cross Country Championships in Chia, finishing eight seconds clear of his nearest rival. Of the 87 athletes in the field, just one was younger than Ingebrigtsen.
But it was in 2017 when Ingebrigtsen, still an U18 athlete, really came to prominence. At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, he became the youngest man in history to run a sub-four-minute mile, clocking 3:58.07. He improved on that three weeks later in front of a home crowd in Oslo, running 3:56.29 to win a special junior edition of the Dream Mile.
He went on to win the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase at the European U20 Championships. He may have earned another gold medal at the championships had it not been for a fall in the 1500m final.
After representing Norway in the steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, Ingebrigtsen ended his track season with another trio of domestic titles – this time at the senior Norwegian Championships. Within the space of three days, he won the 1500m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase and finished third in the 800m.
His rapid ascent continued in 2018. He returned to Eugene and reduced his mile PB to 3:52.28, breaking the European U20 record. The 17-year-old then doubled up at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018, taking silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 5000m in what were arguably two of the strongest fields of the championships.
Less than a week later, Ingebrigtsen finished fourth in a high-quality 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, smashing the European U20 record with 3:31.18.
Off the back of those performances, he had been touted as a medal contender in both the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships in Berlin. But taking gold in both events once again surpassed the expectations of everyone – Jakob included.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s progression