Jakob Ingebrigtsen, at an age of 17, ran away with the gold medal in the men’s 1,500-meter race at the European Championships Friday night, ahead of his older brothers Henrik and Filip. All three made history by qualifying for the final, and all were medal candidates, but Jakob stole the show.
“This is just ridiculous that he wins, he’s only 17 years old,” exclaimed their father and coach Gjert Ingebrigtsen. Running is very much a family affair for the Ingebrigtsens of Sandnes, Norway, just south of Stavanger. Exulting in dialects as thick as the congratulations pouring over Jakob, it was nonetheless clear that they were all delighted by Jakob’s achievement: “He’s extreme, but I’m extremely surprised by the result,” Gjert told reporters in at the huge athletic event in Berlin. “This is crazy.”
Jakob himself didn’t seem to realize that he’d won, looking more puzzled than elated after crossing the finish line. He later told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he thought the pack of runners still had one more lap to go and seemed surprised the race was over. Then it hit him, and he howled with joy, was quickly handed a Norwegian flag and then started running around, thorougly enjoying the moment.
Henrik, the oldest of the three at 27, finished fourth, but Filip finished near the bottom, in 12th place. Their father was impressed by Henrik’s performance but worried about Filip, age 25. “I have to talk to him and find out what happened, for something was wrong,” Gjert said. Filip had put on an amazing performance in his qualifying heat earlier in the week, getting caught in a fall and suffering a deep cut on his leg, only to recover quickly and win the heat.
All three started out in the back of the pack, bringing up the rear until they saw their opportunity that suddenly put them out front. Jakob was the only one who stayed there, though, with both Henrik and Filip even feeling like they trapped each other in and couldn’t advance. Then Filip fell way back while Henrik battled against Jake Wightman from Great Britain for the bronze but lost it. Marcin Lewandowski of Poland took silver.
All three also are scheduled to compete in the men’s 5,000-meter race on Saturday, but Filip feared he may need to withdraw. “I wasn’t good enough today, unfortunately,” Filip told NRK. “I have pain, and have to evaluate dropping the 5,000 meter.”
Jakob already seemed to be looking forward to it. NRK sports commentator Jann Post noted that “he’s not even old enough to drive a car” in Norway, where the legal age for a driver’s license is 18. With legs like his, he doesn’t seem to need one.