Middle-distance runner Henrik Ingebrigtsen smashed the Norwegian record when he finished fourth in the “dream mile” at the Bislett Games on Wednesday night. It was an eventful evening on and off the track, with Greenpeace activists stopping traffic as they protested against the games’ major sponsor, oil giant Exxon Mobil.
Ingebrigtsen held the standing Norwegian record ahead of the race at 3:53.62, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He finished fast to come in fourth with 3:50.72, breaking the national record by almost three seconds. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman finished first.
“I came right out of the blocks and felt I very quickly got into a flow, so I could just keep up the whole time, and when there were two rounds left, 600 meters left, I could just speed up and run past people, so that was a wonderful feeling,” said Ingebrigtsen after the race. “I have not reached my potential yet, I still have four to five years of improvement ahead of me, I hope.”
Ingebrigtsen’s record was one of the only bright points for the team, after Norway’s other big names failed to impress. In the javelin, Anders Thorkildsen’s three poor throws saw him finish last. It has now been several seasons since Thorkildsen was at the top of his game, but even he said Wednesday was his worst competition ever.
Sprinter Ezinne Okparaebo was disappointed with her 11.40 run in the women’s 100 meters. She told NRK she was in the best shape of her life and felt she’d run a technically good race, but she had been sick in recent days. “I have done the work it takes, and have only focused on athletics this year,” she said. “Trained more seriously than I have in my whole life. This is just a little miss.”
Action also happened off the field, when 14 activists protesting against the games’ major sponsor Exxon Mobil were arrested. The Greenpeace protestors used a boom lift to hang “#noarcticoil” banners from floodlights. They did not interrupt the event but did stop traffic around the stadium, and refused to cooperate with police. The protestors were arrested and issued fines between NOK 6,000 – 9,000.
“This oil company is trying to greenwash themselves by sponsoring an athletics event,” said Åshild Lappegård Lahn from Greenpeace Norway, adding that “they want to take the focus away” from controversial Arctic oil operations.