Series20 Dec 2018

Gen 10: middle distance wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen


Geen 10: Jakob Ingebrigtsen (© Getty Images)

Looking ahead to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, we're highlighting the rise of a new generation, 10 exciting prospects under the age of 21 who are set to become stars of the sport over the next few years.

The series began last week with Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, US sprinter Sydney McLaughlin, Ethiopian distance runner Selemon Barega, Jamaican sprinter Briana Williams and Cuban long jumper Juan Miguel Echevarria.

The series continues this week. Having profiled Bahraini sprinter Salwa Eid Naser on Monday and Kenyan distance runner Rhonex Kipruto Tuesday, we turned our attention to Ukrainian heptathlete Alina Shukh yesterday. Today we profile Norway's middle distance wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

Profile: Jakob Ingebrigtsen

Country: Norway
Events: 1500m, 5000m 
Born: 19 September 2000
Coach: Gjert Ingebrigtsen
Social media: @jakobing (Instagram), @JakobIng (Twitter), @ingebrigtsenjakob (Facebook)

It was a golden double whose ripples were felt 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 Jakob Ingebrigtsen isn't just any teenager. Time and again, he'd made that abundantly clear well before he raced to 1500m and 5000m gold at the European Championships in Berlin last August.

Indeed, 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 his rise to such lofty heights would be 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.


Jakob Ingebrigtsen at the 2017 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene


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. And he did so exhibiting a tactical acumen and racing maturity that belies his tender years.

First came the 1500m title, with Ingebrigtsen controlling the proceedings for more than half the race. Less than 24 hours later, he returned to action in the 5000m, taking command with three laps to run. He was never threatened, becoming the first man to capture such a double in the 84-year history of the European Championships.

To wind down the 2018 track campaign, he took another national 1500m title a week later before calling it a season with the third place finish in the 1500m at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018. In recognition of his phenomenal season, Ingebrigtsen was named as a finalist for the 2018 Male Rising Star Award.

He's already returned to action since. Twelve days ago Ingebrigtsen opened his 2018-19 cross country season by winning a third successive U20 title at the European Cross Country Championships.


10 facts about Ingebrigtsen

1. He is coached by his father Gjert.
The senior Ingebrigtsen had no background in athletics but quickly realised his sons had potential after older brothers Henrik and Filip took up the sport.

2. He understands and appreciates the difficulties his father faces when trying to maintain a healthy father-son relationship with his sons.
“It’s tough for him being both a father and a trainer and for us, being sons and athletes, but it’s part of the thing we have to do because we’re hoping to be the best in the world.”

3. Why does he think he's experienced such a rapid rise at such a young age?
“All of us have been doing football, skiing and running and a lot of different stuff,” he says, referring to his his brothers and himself. “It’s definitely something to consider – start being really active and training from an early age.”

4. How long has he been a professional runner? By his own account, longer than most. Much longer.
“I’ve been a professional runner since I was eight, nine, 10 years old. I’ve been training, dedicated and following a good structure – the same as my brothers – from an early age."

5. In Berlin, he became the youngest man to win a European title on the track.
Aged just 17 years, 324 days when he raced to 1500m gold.

6. In Berlin, Jakob also became the third Ingebrigtsen to have won a European 1500m title.
His brother Filip, 25, won in 2016 and Henrik, 27, took the title in 2012 (and later silver in 2014 and bronze in 2016). Filip also took 1500m bronze at the 2017 World Championships.

7. What was the first thing brother Filip, the defending 1500m champion, said to Jakob after the youngster succeeded him as European champion?
"I told him he deserved it because he has been working every day since he was nine or 10 for this."

8. He and his brothers have starred in a reality TV show.
It's called Team Ingebrigtsen, part reality show, part documentary, that aired for two seasons. A third season is currently being discussed.

9. His key inspiration? His brothers.
So he decided, at age eight, that he'd eventually become as good as them. “I said to myself: ‘I also want to do that.’ I always trained at the same place and eventually we started working out together. The biggest thing I’ve learned from them is the mindset. You always have to go hard and believe in yourself – push until the last metres.”

10. His next goal? World domination.
"I definitely hope that Team Ingebrigtsen can break the African dominance," he told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet in Berlin. "Filip has taken a step into that company with his World Championships medal last year, so we are on our way."

Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s progression

(800m, 1500m, mile, 5000m, steeplechase)
2012 (age 11): 2:14.03, 4:21.98, -, -, -
2013 (age 12): 2:04.48, 4:15.87, -, -, -
2014 (age 13): 2:05.02, 4:05.49, -, -, -
2015 (age 14): 1:52.60, 3:48.37, -, -, -
2016 (age 15): 1:51.07, 3:42.44, -, 14:38.67, -
2017 (age 16): 1:49.40, 3:39.92, 3:56.29, 13:35.84, 8:26.81
2018 (age 17): 1:52.01i, 3:31.18, 3:52.28, 13:17.06, -

World U20 all-time top 10, 1500m

1. 3:28.81 Ronald Kwemoi (KEN) Monaco 2014
2. 3:30.10 Robert Biwott (KEN) Monaco 2015
3. 3:30.24 Cornelius Chirchir (KEN) Monaco 2002
4. 3:31.13 Mulugeta Wendimu (ETH) Heusden-Zolder 2004
5. 3:31.18 Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) Monaco 2018
6. 3:31.42 Alex Kipchirchir (KEN) Brussels 2003
7. 3:31.49 Belal Mansoor Ali (BRN) Athens 2007
8. 3:31.54 Isaac Kiprono Songok (KEN) Heusden-Zolder 2003
9. 3:31.63 Samuel Tefera (ETH) Shanghai 2018
10. 3:31.64 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) Rome 2008