His girlfriend probably said it best, after 17-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen crossed the finish line first again Saturday night, this time followed by his older brother Henrik: “It was magic.” The two Norwegian brothers made history by winning both the gold and silver medals in the tough men’s 5,000 meter race at the European Championships in Berlin.
Team Ingebrigtsen, minus their third brother Filip who was sidelined by injury, shared their glory with Morhad Amdouni of France, who took the bronze before 65,000 cheering fans. Jakob, who also won the gold medal in the men’s 1,500-meter race on Friday night, showed no signs of fatigue after that achievement.
“This was so cool, a dream come true for Henrik and me,” Jakob told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). They wished their brother could have been out on the track too, after all three had already made history by qualifying for the finals of both events, but Filip just seemed happy on their behalf: “They couldn’t have done it any better, they’re just raw! This was a gift for both of them. They’re in such good shape, it didn’t seem to cost them anything.”
The race started out with Jakob holding a steady pace in the middle of the pack of Europe’s top runners, and Henrik right behind him. After a few laps Jakob started moving forward, also with Henrik mostly holding pace. By the second-to-last lap, Jakob was out in front, Henrik still behind him, and they poured on the speed. None of the others could keep up and the brothers won by solid margins. It took Jakob just 13 minutes, 17.06 seconds to run the five kilometers, with Henrik clocking 13.18.75 and Amdouni 13.19.14. That pleased Henrik the most, telling NRK that they didn’t “just win by centimeters,” but well ahead of the others.
For a country accustomed to winning ski races, it was something new to take two medals in the same track and field event. Norway is best known for excelling in winter sports, and did poorly at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Now the Ingebrightsens put Norway out in front in summer, too, and Jakob was getting lots of attention. “It’s exceptional for such a young boy, exceptional,” Amdouni’s coach Phillipe Dupont told newspaper VG. He revealed that their plan had been for Amdouni to set such a high tempo in the race that it would wear Jakob Ingebrigtsen out. That plan fell apart with the 17-year-old running away from all the more experienced runners.
His father and coach, who’s been called “brutal” this week and is rarely satisified, allowed himself to be proud, and credited Jakob with running an “orderly, correct” race. “He doesn’t get anything for free, he does the job the whole time,” Gjert Ingebrigtsen told reporters in the stands. “It looks like he’s waiting for the others, but nothing happens, then he crosses the finish line and doesn’t fully realize what happened.” He had some kind words for Henrik, too, and Jakob just seemed to look forward to the next race: “It will be fun to keep doing this in the future.”