Jakob Inge­brigt­sen

Athletics Weekly - - News -

EUAN CRUM­LEY SPEAKS TO JAKOB INGE­BRIGT­SEN, THE TEENAGE TAL­ENT WHO TOOK EUROPE BY STORM IN 2018 BUT NOW HAS BIG­GER TAR­GETS IN MIND

JAKOB INGE­BRIGT­SEN loves cars. “I got my driver’s li­cence the day I turned 18 and I’m pick­ing up a new car in Fe­bru­ary,” he says. “I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to that.

“I have a lot of dream cars. If it’s a fast one and an ex­pen­sive one then it has to be good.”

Go­ing fast, of course, is what this teenager does best and the fact that his 18th birth­day was only in Septem­ber serves as an­other re­minder of how im­pres­sive his achieve­ments in 2018 have been.

His is a name which many within the ath­let­ics world have been aware of for some time, given his habit for break­ing new ground in the age groups.

He ran 3:48.37 for 1500m when he was just 14, re­duced that to 3:42.44 at 15 and then be­came the youngest ‘man’ ever to break the four-minute mile when he clocked 3:58.07. His age at the time? 16.

In 2018, as a 17-year-old, he took the world’s breath away.

Ahead of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in the sum­mer, Inge­brigt­sen was mak­ing head­lines again af­ter run­ning a 3:31.18 1500m at the Di­a­mond League meet­ing in Monaco, smash­ing the Euro­pean un­der-20 record by over four se­conds. To give a lit­tle con­text, Steve Cram’s best for the dis­tance was 3:29.67, while Se­bas­tian Coe’s was 3:29.77.

Yet that had come off the back of a world un­der-20 cham­pi­onships in which he had had to set­tle for 1500m sil­ver and 5000m bronze, so surely the grown-ups wouldn’t have too much to worry about at the Olympic sta­dium, would they?

As it turned out, he made that fa­mous sport­ing stage look like home. His brother Filip was de­fend­ing 1500m cham­pion but a rib in­jury sus­tained in the semi-fi­nal was a fa­tal blow to his chal­lenge. Hen­rik, the el­dest of the in­ter­na­tional ath­letic sib­lings, might then have a shot of win­ning back the ti­tle he lifted in 2012. Not this time.

As the race un­folded, it al­most felt pos­si­ble to see Jakob grow­ing in stature with ev­ery stride as he wound up the pace in the clos­ing two laps and kicked away to win in 3:38.10. He was now the

youngest ever se­nior male Euro­pean cham­pion.

Many of the sport’s ex­perts were still get­ting their head around that teenage kick when, 23 hours later, on­look­ers re­ally be­gan to run out of su­perla­tives for the Nor­we­gian.

There is a calm, un­der­stated con­fi­dence about Jakob which is a trade­mark of his per­for­mances and, when he ex­changed a high five with Hen­rik mid­way through the 5000m fi­nal, it was clear this was not an ath­lete suf­fer­ing with nerves or strug­gling with the ex­er­tions of the pre­vi­ous day.

He changed gear in the clos­ing laps and was in com­plete con­trol as he crossed the line first in 13:17.06, break­ing his own Euro­pean un­der-20 record and be­com­ing the first man ever to achieve the 1500m/5000m dou­ble at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

Jakob is pre­cisely the kind of young ath­lete which those in charge of the sport are so des­per­ate to see emerge in the post-Bolt era and many al­ready see him as a star.

The man him­self, how­ever, is not one of them. Speak­ing with

AW not long af­ter com­plet­ing an his­toric hat-trick of Euro­pean cross coun­try un­der-20 ti­tles in Til­burg, Hol­land, he cut a re­laxed fig­ure. Con­tent­ment, how­ever, is still a long way off.

“It feels okay (be­ing seen as a star) but I have one more step to go to reach the world level,” he says. “That’s ob­vi­ously my main goal now – to keep de­vel­op­ing, keep putting in the hard work and get bet­ter. I want to be the best run­ner in the world.

“When I’m the world’s best run­ner, with world records and ma­jor cham­pi­onship ti­tles, that’s when I will be sat­is­fied with my ca­reer. Un­til then, I know that I can be bet­ter. I’ll try to get there.”

Un­der the guid­ance of coach and fa­ther Gjert, and with train­ing part­ners Hen­rik and

Filip driv­ing each other on, it seems there is lit­tle chance of com­pla­cency creep­ing in.

“It (suc­cess) prob­a­bly has some­thing to do with my two older broth­ers,” smiles Jakob. “We have our kind of phi­los­o­phy and our way of train­ing – and it seems to work pretty well. But I think we can be even bet­ter. There’s no rea­son to be sat­is­fied with what we have done so far.

“We’re help­ing each other a lot and we learn a lot from each other. I’m prob­a­bly the one who has learned the most from them. They’ve made all the mis­takes, I’ve learned from that and made no mis­takes!”

He adds: “Of course it’s an ad­van­tage for us to be three peo­ple in one train­ing group that can run su­per fast.

“It’s funny be­cause ev­ery year we run faster in train­ing, even though the year be­fore we didn’t think it was pos­si­ble to run faster. We keep on push­ing each other and I think in that way we are help­ing each other to even­tu­ally be some of the best run­ners in the world.”

He adds: “For us, it’s in our na­ture (to push hard and see what’s pos­si­ble). We’ve al­ways had a com­pet­i­tive fam­ily – in ev­ery­thing we are go­ing to win.

“It can be hard some­times in train­ing. You have to prove your­self as be­ing a good run­ner and ‘win’ in train­ing but we also know it’s the com­pe­ti­tion that counts.”

Jakob sin­gles the thrill of com­pe­ti­tion out as be­ing what he loves most about his cho­sen sport. He is an ath­lete who runs with­out fear.

“I be­lieve in my­self and I al­ways think that I can win,” he says. “If I don’t be­lieve in my­self go­ing into a race then I’ve al­ready lost. I just have to do the right things in ev­ery race then hope­fully I’m go­ing to win.

“I’ve been a run­ner as long as I can re­mem­ber. I’ve al­ways kept my fo­cus on run­ning and noth­ing else. That way, even­tu­ally you kind of adapt to both the rhythm in run­ning and you get used to the com­pe­ti­tions, the mind­set and ev­ery­thing. I be­lieve, if you want to be num­ber one, then that’s the way to do it.”

Is it that wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence which helps him make it all look so easy?

“It’s not easy but I’ve run for a lot of years and I’m still just 18. I’ve prob­a­bly been into run­ning 10 years be­fore ev­ery­one else.

“There’s noth­ing easy about it. I’ve been run­ning with my broth­ers ev­ery week, ev­ery year, ba­si­cally since I was born so there’s noth­ing easy to it. You have to keep go­ing and, even if you feel bad one day, you just have to do what it takes. Not ev­ery ses­sion has to be bet­ter or good, you just need to get out there.”

When this new mo­torist looks in the rearview mir­ror, he takes some sat­is­fac­tion from the land­marks that have sign­posted his jour­ney so far. How­ever, his main in­ter­est is on the road ahead and a year on the track which fea­tures the Euro­pean In­door Cham­pi­onships in Glas­gow and will reach a cli­max at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Doha.

“Look­ing back to what I’ve done, it feels pretty good,” he says. “Hav­ing that at your back go­ing into train­ing pe­ri­ods and other com­pe­ti­tions is re­ally mo­ti­vat­ing and it makes me want to do even more. That’s the main thing.”

Team Inge­brigt­sen: (l to r) Hen­rik, Jakob and Filip

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